Indie Music Hour with DJ HotJack

A regular journey around the music scene

Album Review – XX by The XX


Album released today in the UK.

The XX are a London 4-piece band with two of the band members sharing vocal duties. A quick look at the band members suggests a ‘miserable eighties’ tribute band and that perhaps isn’t too wide of the mark on the surface. However, scratch that surface and you find something quite special.

The album opens, appropriately enough, with ‘Intro’ – an atmospheric instrumental cavalcade and then moves into ‘VCR’ a beautiful track where the two vocals complement each other perfectly alongside understated guitar and percussion samples. ‘Crystalised’ is up next and this is probably the track that will have been heard most in the lead up to the album being released. Once again, it highlights how well the vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim go together but doesn’t strike me as the strongest track.

‘Islands’ feels very much like a trip-hop track – perhaps similar to something Telepopmusik would do. ‘Heart Skipped A Beat’ sees melodic vocals competing with more understated instrumentation punctuated by a drum machine that, completely deliberately i’m sure, brings a heart beat to mind. ‘Fantasy’ opens with vocals that brought Gregorian chanting, or at least a church scene, into my mind. The instrumentation changes halfway through and Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’ forced its way to the front of my brain. I felt the track could have been built upon though. Just as it seemed like it was building up to something it fizzled out.

‘Shelter’ reminded me of an Everything But The Girl track. This could have been my head playing tricks on me as I’m conscious of the vocalist from EBTG, Tracy Thorn, doing a track called Shelter with Massive Attack but I’m gonna stick with my instincts. Again, the trip-hop genre springs up heavily here. ‘Basic Space’ heads in a slightly more upbeat direction with a more RnB tempo shining through.

‘Infinity’ makes a quiet start but is atmospheric as hell and becomes something quite epic. Listen out to the guitars on this and I defy you not to think of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. This track made me smile for some reason – not something I’d associate with the rest of the album. ‘Night Time’ is okay but never really evoked much interest from me. The album ends with ‘Stars’ and this track is another great example of how perfectly the dual vocals work together.

I’ve mentioned a few influences in relation to specific tracks already and, overall, I’d say Jesus and Mary Chain and even The Pixies come to mind. It’s impossible to dump the whole album in a single category though and, in fairness, is pretty hard to pigeon-hole the band too. It seems to me that they have created something pretty unique within the contemporary music scene.

This is a clever album. It doesn’t try too hard – it is simply what it is. I’d suggest you listen to it in the dark, with your eyes closed and with headphones on. It’s wonderfully atmospheric. I can’t wait to see what the band produce next.

Overall, 8/10 from me. It’s not perfect but it’s a very confident collection.


August 17, 2009 - Posted by | Album Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Funny you hear Kate Bush in ‘fantasy’; ‘running up that hill’ was on my mind from the first notes of the intro.
    great album: lots of highs, no lows.

    Comment by Kris | March 31, 2010 | Reply

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