Anti-fans of The xx's debut album will likely maintain the same ill feelings toward their sophomore release "Coexist"; however, loyal fans will find the record to be a wonderful addition to the band's ever-growing catalogue of music.
The UK trio, made up of Romy Madley-Croft, Jamie Smith and Oliver Sim, return to the harrowing angst that made their first album, "xx", such an enormous success. It's been a long three years since the critically acclaimed debut from the band.
After sacking their guitarist/keyboardist Baria Qureshi, The xx hasn't seemed to miss a beat with their latest attempt. The band stays true to the echoed guitar riffs, electronic backing beats, and melodramatic lyrics that brought about a unique new sound to the independent music scene in 2009 and helped The xx garner the coveted Mercury Prize in early 2010.
"Coexist" wastes no time settling into The xx's well-known sound. The record kicks off with the first single, "Angels", a modestly quiet song where Romy Madley-Croft sings lyrics of love cut too short over guitar melodies reminiscent of the likes of Beach House and marching band drum rolls. The song is a fitting introduction to an album dealing with emotional authenticity, love and heartbreak.
The standout tune of the album is a song called "Chained", which happens to be the second single from "Coexist". It is a duet sung by both Madley-Croft and Sim. The two sing simultaneously on the chorus, of memories of being closer long ago and wondering where that spark went. Throughout the song the two singers plead, "Did I hold you too tight? Did I not let enough light in?", wondering if either of the two was too possessive or not open enough with the way they felt.
Although the album never reaches the buzz garnered from the band's debut, it is definitely an album that will grow on the listener as it is listened to more and more. The band stays true to the quiet sing-talking style that made them famous.
One listen to the song "Missing", a duet sung by lead singers Madley-Croft and Sim about a former relationship and dealing with the heartbreak of missing a former flame, and one can tell the raw emotion that the two singers convey in their heartfelt lyrics. The song begins with a basic backing drumbeat and later fades out. When the song finally fades back in, guitars shriek throughout the background, adding an element of heartache to the melody.
One key difference from the band's debut album is the use of actual drum kits. On the song "Reunion" the band makes good use of steel drums and echoed guitars. It is a nice change of pace from the rest of the album. Unlike most of their songs containing an electronic backbeat, this song has a more up-tempo dance quality to it. A listener may find himself or herself tapping their foot along to the hushed sound and up-tempo of this song.
Unlike The xx's first album, their sophomore effort doesn't contain any instantly catchy earworms such as the breakout hit "Crystalised" or the heavily sampled "Intro". The casual listener, on the other hand, may tend to find the album a bit on the boring side. Many of the songs on this record seem to be building up to something bigger throughout, but never actually seem to reach anything spectacular.
Overall, though, "Coexist" is a solid follow up to "xx". The album stays true to the formula, which has given the band success. Fans will be satisfied with the band's distinct, signature sound of hypnotic guitar echoes, pounding drums, and raw emotional lyrics. "Coexist" is an album that requires multiple listens in order to resonate with the listener. After three years without any new music, The xx hasn't missed a step.