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February: 18 albums you need to hear this month

That's the month sorted, then

  • Mixmag Crew
  • 3 February 2017

Album of the month

The xx 'I See You' (Young Turks)

When The xx first emerged eight years ago, mining a brand of introspective alt-pop that united electronica and indie rock tribes, their impact was seismic. Then, in 2014, a watershed. During a series of New York shows, Jamie, Romy and Oliver barely made eye contact with their audience. It was their way of saying goodbye to the old xx: immediately after, they began making ‘I See You’, with each of the trio juggling it with other commitments – Romy a songwriting course in California, Oliver modelling for Dior and Jamie… well, you know what he did. His solo debut, ‘In Colours’, is an overarching influence on ‘I See You’, but that’s not to say that it’s full of dancefloor jams. Rather, it’s informed by a similar spirit – the deployment of samples, the way beats are utilised, the use of the ‘drop’. ‘Dangerous’ opens with a fanfare of horns, before settling into a 2-step gallop. It’s a sign that things are now different on Planet xx, further bolstered by ‘Violent Noise’, built on a trancey hook you could imagine in an old Paul van Dyk set. ‘Performance’, the most familiar-sounding track here, features forlorn guitar and emotional strings; it’s contrasted by ‘On Hold’, in which a vocal sample from Hall & Oates’ ‘I Can’t Go For That’ is accompanied by 80s-style synth drums and lithe bass. The band’s real X factor (xx factor?) is Romy and Oliver: not since Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell has male/female vocal interaction sounded so seductive. It’s why ‘I Dare You’ is elevated beyond just another love song. “I’m in love with it, intoxicated,” sings Oliver; “A rush of blood is not enough, I need my feelings set on fire,” responds Romy. The xx have undergone a gentle makeover, but what lies at their heart remains the same. Songs for lovers. Songs for the rejected. Songs for all of us. Stephen Worthy

9/10

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