Of all the Mercury Music Prize winners, The XX must have been the most unassuming. Capturing a nation’s taste for less is more subtlety, their self-titled debut seemed to gain even more popularity after that; soundtracking sporting events and TV dramas alike. Every band should strive to be liked and respected but we all know that over-familiarity can breed negative behaviours. ‘Coexist’ comes out over two years later and if these introspective songs do turn up on Match Of The Day, no one could say the band wrote them with that intention.
Having said that, if opening track ‘Angels’ is anything to go by, they’ve turned into Beach House. The song is underscored by the Baltimore act’s familiar dreamy languid melodies, except here Romy Madley Croft adds her equally distinctive soft, melancholic tones. From this point you might expect them to broaden their horizons further and widen their sound palette but the trio retreat to their default shy setting almost immediately. ‘Try’ yearns like Everything But The Girl, ‘Sunset’ is shrouded in a constant ghostly shimmer whilst ‘Tides’ makes the best employment of Jamie Smith’s shuffling beats. Yet the truly stunning moments of their debut are in short supply. The use of steel drums and guitar effects on ‘Renuion’ make The XX sound vital again but it’s essentially a great track amongst a collection of good and satisfactory ones.
So overall, ‘Coexist’ is an album of fine moments but seems reluctant to grasp the opportunity afforded to it by all the exposure they have gained. It’s a record where one listens to the album waiting for something to happen but not enough does to make you remember it. After this cool but consistently muted follow-up, expect The XX to retreat into the margins as a result. After all, it does seem to rather suit them.
The XX Official Site
Everything But The Girl, Young Marble Giants