The prime feature of The xx is their sheer trendiness. Producer Jamie xx’s breakthrough solo debut could be heard on loop in Urban Outfitters and the like. In essence, The xx were the forerunners of the stylish sparse electronica that would permeate the indie scene in the seven years since their debut. However, others took this sound further and on their third effort, the xx merely sound like they are catching up with their contemporaries.
Musically, ‘I See You’ is their most vivid record yet. It’s more upbeat and incorporates a greater array of instruments such as the horns which infiltrate the stirring opener ‘Dangerous’ and the strings that fade into the drowsy ‘Performance’. The richer instrumentation does not come at the expense of The xx seeming like a different band. They retain their intimate and sensual charm, epitomised by the boy-girl interchanges between Romy Croft and Oliver Sim.
The exuberant and heartfelt ‘Say Something Loving’ is a clear standout, propelled by an Alessi Brothers sample. It introduces the leitmotif of impending heartbreak where Croft and Sim sing “I just can’t remember the thrill of it”. Romy and Croft struggle to cling on to the love they once experienced.
But the quality takes a real nosedive in the second half of I See You with some flaccid radio friendly pop songs that shrivel with corniness when it comes to the choruses. It’s as if the xx are torn between trying to come across as more accessible and more experimental.
Many will laud The xx for ‘maturing’ in ‘I See You’ with a more refined sound but the innocence of their minimalist compositions in previous works was a major selling point. Here, it just feels like they are fitting in with the pack of UK art pop bands in embracing moody, synth-driven electronica. Despite some high points, it’s not hard to foresee ‘I See You’ fading into the background.
CT Rating: 6/10
Adam Bielenberg | Music Writer