After taking a five year break between their second and third albums, The xx finally burst back onto the music scene with I See You. Released Jan. 13, the 39 minute long album takes listeners on a lucid trip through the varied and emotional lives of lead singers Romy Croft and Oliver Sim. Boasting the band’s signature dreamy vocals coupled with DJ Jamie Smith’s post-dubstep and future garage beats, I See You sits as one of the best electronic albums in years.
The success of I See You revolves around the maturity of the songs, and the time and dedication The xx put into their production. While the group’s first two albums are a refreshing take on the synth-pop genre, they lacked a certain amount of experience and confidence that elevates a good band to a great one. With I See You, Romy and Oliver weave stories of toxic affairs, lost love and the price of losing their youth. Both singers overcame multiple trials and came out stronger for it. These hardened emotions shine throughout every song.
Another exciting part of I See You’s was its sudden release. While J. Smith released an overwhelmingly successful solo album, Jamie xx, the other two members remained in the dark. Then, in October of last year, the band posted a letter on social media saying how they have worked tirelessly on their third album, and that it would release some time in January of this year. The single “On Hold”, which sampled parts of Hall and Oates “I can’t go for that,” followed soon after. The excitement and buzz around the release of I See You was staggering, which made the album’s positive reception all the more sweeter.
From the album’s 10 song track list, “Brave for You“, “Dangerous“, and “I Dare You” shine the brightest. “Brave for You” showcases Romy’s vocals in a way that hasn’t been seen since their first album, while “Dangerous” and “I Dare You” stand as proof that Romy and Oliver are one of the best duet vocalists in the industry. What always stood out about The xx, besides their prodigious instrumentals, is their ability to tell romantic stories that speak to every fiber of the listener’s being. “On Hold” highlights the lows of losing the affection of someone you cared for, while “A Violent Noise” revolves around feeling reserved with one’s emotions, and learning to enjoy one’s surroundings.
The xx owe their initial success in part to their ability to create an intimate dialogue between their two vocalist. Whenever Romy and Oliver feature equally on a track, their vocals intertwine and flow like two experienced lovers, each complimenting the others vocal styles perfectly. While this was a focal point of their first album, the band admits that they somewhat stumbled upon it by accident. However, I See You elevates both singers vocal prowess, and capitalizes on their experience and skill. No longer is The xx trying to prove themselves in a genre filled with stereotypical rehashes, as they finally found a happy medium between what they were, and everything they’ve worked to become.
Despite the extremely intimate nature of I See You, The xx is a band who headlines festivals, and tracks like “Dangerous” and “On Hold” exist specifically for those crowds. Through Jamie’s masterful work behind a computer, The xx evolved their sound into something more full and vibrant. Piercing horns and rich baselines flow through almost every track, while the group’s synth and techno roots shine brightly throughout this album more so than their previous two bodies of work. Complementing Jamie’s work is Romy and Oliver’s minimalistic guitar and bass chords which add a layer of musical depth and humanity.
I See You marks the triumphant return of England’s most intriguing and exciting techno-alternative group. With a refined, elegant sound and mature vocals, The xx prove that the five year wait was well worth it. I See You is a phenomenal start to 2017, and a milestone in 21st century alternative.
Title: I see You
Artist: The xx