The xx Hype Is Legit.

The xx
xx

XL Recordings
2009

Review

I'm late to this party as my invite came from a rather unexpected source (a mash-up video with DMX). But all I can say is that The xx live up to the hype and then some.

It feels strange to me that I only discovered The xx because of an internet mash-up video that I stumbled on somewhere (I can't remember exactly where). I remember reading about the mash-up meme going around of mixing The xx with DMX and was intrigued just by the crossover potential evident in the titles.

..and forgot all about it. I remember thinking that "hey this sounds cool" and making a mental note to follow up, but of course that didn't happen right away. When I started seeing The xx popup here and there all over the place, I started wondering if I had missed something. So here I am sometime later finally getting around to listening to their debut and what can I say besides that the album is brilliant enough on it's own without needing any DMX guest appearances.

At first glance, you might think of The xx as a somber Sonic Youth (The Xx are less "jammy") but while The xx retain the services of sultry male and female vocal leads, their sound remains more laid back then what you would expect from Sonic Youth. For me, I immediately thought of some sleep deprived Editors (listen to "Crystalised" to see what I mean).

It is rare for me to hear about an album that has a ton of hype about it, and then listen to it and have it live up to those expectations, but (dammit) this one does. The mood here is very downtempo. In many ways this is the Rock equivalent of some early downtempo Trip-Hop - at least to my ears. I love how the two vocal leads deliver their lyrics in a quiet near-whisper and play off one another as in on "Heart Skipped A Beat".

This is not your typical Rock record and there's a sort of quiet explosive energy to it. I mean, there's nothing showy about the performances on this record. I think it takes a certain amount of inner confidence to deliver music like this - moody, complex, and often haunting downtempo Rock that has almost no sense of trying to fall into any particular marketable or radio-friendly category. I was shocked to discover that The xx members are teens! I mean, Romy Madley-Croft (the female vocal lead of the band) sounds amazingly mature in a manner that immediately reminded me Jennifer Charles singing for Lovage.

This is a record meant to be played with the lights down low when you need a moment to reflect. It is an impressive debut from a very young band delivered seemingly effortless that completely lives up to the hype. The xx are for real.

4.556 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Intro (02:07)
2. VCR (02:57) 5
3. Crystalised (03:21) 5
4. Islands (02:40) 5
5. Heart Skipped a Beat (04:02) 4
6. Fantasy (02:38)
7. Shelter (04:30) 5
8. Basic Space (03:08) 4
9. Infinity (05:13) 5
10. Night Time (03:36) 5
11. Stars (04:22) 3