Saturday, January 16, 2010

FEATURE 42 - The XX's

Their name kept coming up in all the 'Best of's' for 2009. So I searched them out on Spotify, and since then they've become a permanent fixture on my play list, my first musical addiction and resplendent joy of 2010. They wear their influences proudly on their sleeves, but make something uniquely all their own of them. Vocally reminiscent of early Tracy Thorn, their music evokes the spirit of that short lived band from the mid-eighties Young Marble Giants (look out their one and only album Colossal Youth). Unlike the YMG whose music had a fragility that was forever on the edge of shattering, the XX's seem more confidently grounded in their melancholy muse. Something fresh and innovative emerges from their use of instrumental sparseness, that is more than just imitative. Their sound has a simple unpretentious clarity to it that is gentle on the ears, without becoming depressive or sentimental. This doesn't mean its unadventurous either, they push the possibilities of their soundscape all the time. Here they're well served by the production, which features the best use of echo on a guitar in years.

Like the YMG, it may be they've emerged too perfectly formed, There could becomes no way of moving the sound forward without the band splitting due to 'musical differences'. One of the band has already parted company, so lets see. I can't see them ever becoming mega-big, their sound is too low key,and intimate. It lacks the huge ego, and showy brashness often required to be hugely popular. But they do already have a substantial cult following, and some effusive critical acclaim as a result. Enjoy them whilst their star is still small polished and shiny. The critical knives will no doubt be out soon enough.

Their videos are quite minimal and cool too.

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