The XX: I See You

Score: 7/10 – xx-tatic.
Right from the opening fanfare of ‘Dangerous’ you can tell that there’s something different happening on The xx’s third LP. Eagle-eared listeners might notice that unlike their previous two albums, ‘I See You’ is actually upbeat, groovy, and – incredibly for the ever-gloomy Wandsworth trio – almost happy.
The hushed minimalism of their 2009 debut and its follow up ‘Coexist’ was more concerned with the silent spaces in between the notes rather than getting any parties going. Cue Jamie Smith – the band’s mixmaster/ musical savant, and the expansive, joy-filled euphoria of his 2015 solo effort ‘In Colour’. Free to follow his own direction, the album took The xx sound to new levels, as inclusively as possible. Fellow band members Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim willingly came along for the ride (both contributed vocals), but it was ultimately Smith’s project, and has clearly influenced ‘I See You’ in a number of ways.
‘Say Something Loving’ bounces between ecstatic, clubby buildups and dub-infused choruses effortlessly, ‘Lips’ resembles something Sia might have penned for Shakira, while the first single ‘On Hold’ follows the lead of their famous ‘Intro’ and takes it up a few levels of cheerful. It’s all relative of course, when compared to the sparse, chronically introverted first two albums. ‘Performance’, ‘Test Me’ and the slow-moving ‘Brave For You’ are all admittedly far from upbeat, but when held up against previous material, they feel positively elated.
The upshot is the feeling that Croft, Sim & Smith have discovered the perfect direction in which to advance their music without abandoning the elements that make The xx so great, and that really is the beauty of ‘I See You’.
Dan Ashcroft
Like this? Try these:

Jamie xxIn Colour
Astonishing solo effort from The xx disk jockey.

London GrammarIf You Wait
Accomplished debut delivered by moody electro trio.

Little DragonNabuma Rubberband
Gothenburg quartet deliver a tidy serving of indietronica.

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