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I See You is The xx Bigger and Better Than Ever

It’s been eight years since the release of their eponymous album in 2009 and The xx are still effortlessly making art.

The simplistic, synth and string infused tracks of ‘xx’ were the soundtrack to many a mellow afternoon spent in my teenage pit; who knew that three individuals could know me so well without even knowing I existed. Since then, I’ve come to learn that I was not alone in my appreciation and sentimentality towards the album but, in fact, shared a quietly bubbling anticipation to see what was next from this mysterious trio.

When I See You was released, it’s fair to say that the majority of listeners were on the edge of their seats, suspending their daily routine to wait with baited breath. What if they’ve changed their sound? Have they slipped into the darkly attractive hole of churning out top 40 garbage? Safe to say, all catastrophes were adequately avoided and in doing so, a holographic, echoing masterpiece was born.

Romy and Oliver’s voices have always gelled well together, complimenting each other in tone, emotion and experience to form a velvety, whisper of words. Neither voice is particularly extraordinary but that’s the beauty of it. Their voices are clever and chillingly emotive, making lyrics such as “Here come my insecurities/ I almost expect you to leave” familiar for many, striking a nerve that we associate with failed relationships and self-judgement. Even the upbeat fanfare of an opening track, Dangerous manages to stir a sense of fight in its listeners, “You are dangerous/but I don’t care”, whilst maintaining the underlying doubts of human flaws and vulnerability.

But why is this any different to any other moody, indie album? I’ll tell you why: this album encompasses growth and friendship and all of the shitty white noise that tends to fill life’s duller moments, only to enhance those which leave us glowing. Jamie’s worldwide success could have easily become an overbearing presence on I See You but, thanks to the invisible bond between these three talented individuals, it hasn’t. A Violent Noise boasts an unmistakably Jamie xx-esque sound to it with euphoric arpeggios of synth and bass, but is an equally naked and stripped back performance from Romy and Oliver once again.

Sampling Hall & Oates’ I Can’t Go for That on the track On Hold is, without a doubt, a genius move by Jamie but is also one that would simply not be spot-on without the vocals of his fellow musicians. And that’s the thing: these guys aren’t here just to make money and wear all black. They’re here and creating as friends that have grown together documenting their experience of life so far, ultimately injecting this precious fuel into their music. I feel like I’m reading a diary entry for each day since their release in 2009 and it feels real.

For those lucky enough to have bagged tickets to their upcoming tour, I envy how much of a treat you’re in for. When the band first appeared on the scene, I saw them as a supporting act for Florence and the Machine in a sweaty, sticky O2 Academy – oh, the joys. But even then, I knew that their haunting accuracy at embodying human emotions into words would be one that would take them above and beyond those only dreaming of being able to do the same. It comes with little surprise that I See You has shot straight to number one in the charts; they are effortlessly sublime and will continue to read the minds of lamenting millennials for a long, long time.

Get Volume #16 here.

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Words by Claudia Knight

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