Let’s talk about boring music.
In the past, I’ve railed against snoozy tunes. In particular, I loathe the tendency of artists to load the final half of their albums with musical melatonin. If I wanted to take a nap, I would turn on the Doppler weather radar channel and snort the contents of a chamomile tea bag. Or fall asleep naturally. Whichever seemed more fun at the time.
On 2009’s xx, the English atmosphere wranglers found their niche as a calm, cool, collected indie outfit. Fans of songs like “VCR” and “Heart Skipped a Beat” know that producer Jamie xx and vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim set the mood like few acts can. “Moody” is the key word — if you’ve hear Drake’s “Take Care,” you’ve heard a fine example of Jamie xx’s production whammy.
Whereas the sparse, spacey sounds of xx are endlessly captivating, The xx’s new album Coexist is less catchy and more delirious. In fact, if you’re feeling down, I would recommend soaking in this album, because exacerbating existential tendencies is always a good way to go.
Highlighting individual tracks would be hard to do; Coexist tends to blur together into one cohesive experience. Often, that would mean that the album in question was a monotonous bore. Here, it’s more of a symphonic experience. Listening to Coexist is like riding a soundwave from start to finish. It’s not enough to listen to it — wait for hackneyed phrase — you have to feel it. There’s plenty of tricks in the band’s bags, like the steel drums in “Reunion” and the eerie synths of “Try.” From the shimmering “Angels,” to the aching “Chained,” to the captivating and slightly threatening “Fiction,” The xx’s dark, barely-there melodies and haunting lyrics will transfix.
On first take, Coexist may come across as boring, especially compared with the more varied track list on xx. As someone easily entranced by bells and whistles and juicy hooks, I will admit that I initially fell into this trap. There are far too many beautiful things going on in this album to think that way for long. Comparing a record to an onion is a limited metaphor, but as far as layers are concerned, it seems apt for The xx’s sophomore outing.
(1-11) The part of the album with the songs.