The xx’s 2009 debut, reached omnipresent status in the British consciousness as it became the soundtrack to BBCs coverage of just about anything. Intro to a major sporting event - The xx; montage on The One Show – The xx; transition scene on Homes Under The Hammer – The xx. It was popularity that could not have been forecast, regardless of the quality of their work. The trio are often reclusive anti-stars and there were no standout singles. So where do you go from there and what do you go after you’ve already impressed so many people?
Coexist opens with the spine-tingling sounds that are, so unmistakably, The xx. Chiming guitar tones and beautifully constructed spaciousness. ‘Angels’ picks up from where their 2010 Mercury prize winning debut left off. There is no pomp or bluster here, such is their way. It’s the sound of the 5am after-party journey home, once people begin to ponder the events of the night before.
Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft exchange overlapping lovelorn lullabies to the backdrop of lush and often sparse production. There are delirious sirens in ‘Try’ with Romy’s vocals aching and pensive with Oliver an ever present deep echo.
Completing the xx triad is Jamie Smith. Having honed his skills mastering and remixing tracks for everybody from Adele to Gil-Scott Heron and Drake, Coexist is supposed to be inspired by club music and there are some dancier moments here. ‘Reunion’ bounces into life midway through after a typically thoughtful lyric exchange. It’s no floor filler, that’s for sure, but it’s one of the rare pieces of expansion on the record, hinted at once again in following track ‘Sunset’.
On first listen there are also moments to be wary. Some songs, like ‘Chained’, are somewhat reminiscent of xx’s slightly weaker second half.
Elsewhere tracks are made up of steal pans and silence. ‘Tides’, with its soft kick-snare beat is an escape from the potential malaise The xx can slip you into.
It’s certainly a case of subtle evolution for the band and whether that’s because of diminishing returns or a case of ‘if it ain’t broke...’, Coexist doesn’t quite raise the bar in the way one might have hoped. Still, that bar was pretty high in the first place.