Indie band avoids sophomore slump

The xx has done it again. Their second album Coexist is every bit as appealing as their 2008 debut album. For those unfamiliar with the xx, the band has been active since 2008 in the indie pop genre.

Photo courtesy of vulture.com

Their sound is characterized by soft vocals, soothing chord progressions, and an overall minimalist sound. Also, their male-female dual vocals add a layer of uniqueness to their tracks. This album is no different.

The album opens with the song “Angels,” a slightly haunting and equally relaxing song with not much more than guitar, vocals, and the occasional strike of the bass drum. The entire album has themes of loneliness, love, and intimacy throughout. The loneliness theme is especially reflected in the musical style of the xx. With limited instrumentation, the xx efficiently conveys that theme in every last song on this album. The themes of love an intimacy are reflected in the lyrics more so.

The fusion of these themes creates a very pleasing yet somewhat unusual listening experience; it almost creates a feeling of longing within the listener. Musically, the xx is aloof from other pop music frequenting the internet these days, but not entirely.

As mentioned, they do retain their distinctly minimalist sound. However, the xx has made a few style changes to follow the popular music trends. Coexist carries more of an electronic dance feeling with some upbeat songs that have a slight trance sound to them, especially the song “Sunset.” It is interesting how the xx has followed this popular music trend, while still maintaining their signature sound.

While their music is not exactly party material, the electronic twist on Coexist gives an upbeat feeling to a few of the songs with their sparse sound. The musical contrast is a tad confusing at times, however, for the most part, the mixing of steady beats with an overall melancholy sound provides an interesting new sound that has been relatively unexplored by other bands. This is very refreshing. It seems that many newer bands have resorted to musical themes and sounds that have been used over and over again.

The xx is innovative in that they have successfully combined a popular music trend that is generally upbeat with their distinctive male/female duet vocals and haunting melodies. The songs in the album are relatively homogenous, which is to be expected of a band with such a distinct sound.

The tracks seem to flow into one another without too much distinction because of the uniformity of the tracks, but a patient and active listener will rarely be bored. There are subtle differences in musical style and theme within each track, but don’t expect to be impressed if you are listening to this quietly in the background. Upon re-listening to this album through headphones, new sounds and subtleties have appeared from the backgrounds of the sonic field.

If this album doesn’t impress you, give a listen through some headphones, you just might hear a new thing or two. Overall, Coexist sits very well in its self-carved niche. Enjoy the refreshing sound of this new album, and don’t fall into the trap of listening too passively, you might grow bored. Give this album the careful attention it deserves. Happy listening!