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The xx – I See You

Despite releasing an album regarded as one of the best British debuts of all time, plus a strong follow-up with 2012’s Coexist, the last three years has seen any xx-related discourse dominated not by talks of the London trio’s next venture but the thriving solo career of Jamie Smith instead.

Following the recent success of the Mercury Prize-nominated In Colour, it would be natural to wonder how much of an influence Smith’s winning blend of house, garage and rave would hold over I See You, the band’s first record in five years. Suffice to say, opening track ‘Dangerous’ has his fingers all over it with blaring horns, synths and a looping bass beat presenting a far cry from the minimal production style once adopted by the group. Similar things can also be said about the pre-released single ‘On Hold’, which sees the trademark boy/girl vocal exchanges between Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft but ultimately stands out for some clever sampling of Daryl Hall & John Oates ‘I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)’ and an abnormally upbeat production. That said, even though this album represents a more chipper change of tack, the old charms are still very much there for all to revel in. ‘Performance’ sees the haunting, anguished vocals of Romy accompanied by nothing but whining violins and soft bass strings; ‘Lips’ oozes lusty anxieties and ‘Test Me’ closes the album on a restrained, unsettling note. Evidently this is a new type of The xx: one that still captivates listeners, builds you up, knocks you down – but now has you yearning for a dancefloor while they do it.

JF 8/10

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