The XX "I See You" Album Review
Genre: Dream Pop
Nearly four and a half years go by without a third album from the amazing trio that is The XX. You might have been tide over by the amazing 2015 release “In Colour” from production mastermind Jamie XX, but maybe you were missing some of the impeccable vocals from Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. 2016 saw the release of the single On Hold and boy did it make some noise! Not only was it a nice surprise to hear from this group again but we noticed a very strong influence from Jamie XX’s previous project all over this upbeat dance track. And I like it!
“I See You” is an intimate album along the same lines vocally and lyrically as their self-titled debut and as well as “Coexist”. We notice this right away in the opening track Dangerous. I initially was reeled in with the blaring horns that awaken this album and continued to be hooked with the energy level that the production was bringing to the table. Without surprise the vocal chemistry between Croft and Sim blew me away. I almost forgot how well they complement each other. The song is about falling in love with someone that your peers think to be dangerous, but you just can’t help it. In spite of all the critics you push forward with the relationship, a day at a time, fully understanding that it might fail and being totally okay with that. The emotions continue with Say Something Loving. A heartwarming realization that love has felt so foreign for too long and giving up on looking for it only to have it land right in front of you. This new love gets so overwhelming that you can’t help but caught up in the feeling. Jamie captures this feeling after the final chorus with a fast paced overflow of sound taking over your body and making you move along with the beat. Lips sounds so good! There is so many layers to this song production side and I can’t help but bob along to this track. I find the lyrics to be a little lackluster and the ending is a little abrupt to me. The production makes the track, super easy to throw on and feel the beat. The next track is what it says it is. A Violent Noise gets repetitive in the choruses, and slightly boring in the verses. Oliver takes a strong vocal lead in this track but doesn’t show off at all. The crescendo is extremely enticing and well done but can get annoying. Next lies the track that fans of the slower/softer XX are going to love dearly. Performance is a simple but powerful track with delicate guitar riffs throughout and perfect placement of strings at the end of the verses. Romy sings about being very good at hiding her insecurities, so well in fact, that the person she is performing for doesn’t care in the end or is too naïve to see that she is in pain. You could even say that she gave the best vocal performance throughout the album on this track.
We just heard Romy’s strongest song and we immediately head into Sim’s. A track about doing the same thing, night after night, Replica touches on his issues with alcohol and possibly following in the footsteps of someone close to him. Easily one of the best songs on this album with amazing harmonies in the choruses and beautiful undertones from Croft. The production is highly appealing and so easy to get lost in and it perfectly rounds this song up. Next up we have an emotional tell all from Romy about being brave for all those who look up to her and admire her whether it be for her around the world performances, about being gay, or when it comes to dealing with the loss of loved ones. Brave For You is a pretty track with heavy digital keys carrying you through before adding playful guitar and a cool little bass solo after the second chorus. The crescendo in the chorus leads up to a great post chorus instrumental. Now for the strongest track on the album, the single On Hold has so much energy and The XX really let Jamie shine on this one. Vocally Sim and Croft are perfect when they sing about being caught up in a relationship and not seeing things going wrong and being taken aback when the relationship evidently ends. It goes to show that you can’t get comfortable in a relationship, you can’t let any moment pass by without making it the happiest yet. The post chorus in this track is amazingly fun and fits the theme of the song, allowing you to get lost in the music only to realize that it has come to an end. I Dare You opposes On Hold by claiming to be addicted to the feeling of love and not being able to get enough of it. The harmonies in the chorus are really nice but I find the track lacking lyrically. There could have been more in terms of verses and content and this topic has also been touched a few times throughout “I See You”. For the outro, Test Me, we get a sense that Romy and Sim are singing about being okay with lovers testing their limits because they are too comfortable in the relationship. The lines “test me, see if I break” and “How could I walk away?” show this clearly. In a relationship you can find a circle of trying to change and falling flat every time as you revert back to your old ways. The duet ends bringing on a remarkably ominous closer to the album with Jamie singing. Yes, that is Jamie at the end of the song wrapping the album up quite nicely.
I really like this new installment into The XX’s discography. They tried to bring some more excitement to their songs and I believe they did an exceptional job. There is just so much to hear in “I See You” and it all works so well. The XX continues to be a force in modern music eight years after their debut and I think we can be easily impressed by that.