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Super Sexy Downtempo Grooves in The XX’s ‘I See You’

Super Sexy Downtempo Grooves in The XX’s ‘I See You’

Third The XX album released after five-year hiatus



If you like trippy, bassy dream pop you can dance to, slide into romance to, or fall into post-night-out sleep to, The XX’s “I See You” is your album. If you like Glass Animals, Flume, The Weeknd, London Grammar, or Sombear, this is your album.

“I See You” has been getting hype since last November when “On Hold” was released as a single, and performed on SNL about a week later. There had also been bits and pieces of melodies and samples released via Spotify, and a lot of fan anticipation.

The XX once again manage to deliver a clear album experience, with each track smoothly transitioning into the next, in what feels like just the right order. I’m a fan of the “album as an experience” as opposed to the “album as a series of individual iTunes sales” model of record construction, and I think here it’s even more needed.

The record has a floating ghostly quality that promotes a lonely sort of intimacy. They are undoubtedly the XX still, but the sound feels a little fuller, like more time went into production, more time went into creating the subtle layers that make The XX speak to your primal brain after deftly stepping around your waking mind. It is, for lack of a better way to explain it, smooth. Every pause and beat feels crafted into a flowing river of sound.

“Dangerous” has a slippery bassline accompanied by sporadic horn fanfares. It’s one of the more dance-y poppy songs off the album, and it’s the sort of thing sweaty attractive people in tight-fitting clothes might dance in slow motion to in a movie club scene.

“Say Something Loving” slows the tempo a bit from there, and “Lips” moves straight into a breathless sex scene, complete with lingering eye contact.

“A Violent Noise” maintains the calm pace before plummeting into “Performance,” which is absolutely mournful. Just as you feel like you’ve had enough of that, the song suddenly cuts off amidst strings to a good five seconds of silence before moving on into “Replica” where soft, cheery piano gives you a bit of a lift.

“Brave for You” lifts the album back to something less torpid, which is utterly necessary as “On Hold” is fabulously energetic and pushes you to move, to smile and to generally feel all right about life.

“I Dare You” maintains the spirit energy “On Hold” provides, with a hopeful sound and a peppy drumline. The album dips back down from there, finishing on a low somber note with “Test Me.”
Lyrically, “I See You” is a winner, there’s depth to the vocals, and there’s a fantastic story told by sultry voices with more silk than steel to them.

Musically, the production is fantastic. There’s a lot of subtlety you miss on the first pass (or through crappy speakers) that fills out with each consecutive listen.

The XX just announced North American tour dates and sadly, Albuquerque didn’t make the cut. You can catch them at the Mesa Amphitheatre in Phoenix, which is the closest they’re getting to New Mexico. Or you can check out their website, like them on Facebook or hear them on Soundcloud.

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Bradley T. Schuman is a pop culture geek and music nerd with far too many records and opinions. Reach him at music@freeabq.com.

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