Haunted Harmonies On The xx's 'Coexist'
The focal point of The xx, on its debut as well as its new album Coexist, is the existential romance between the singers, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft — each of whom sounds adrift in his or her own bubble.
The vocal magic is made partly by nonsinging band member Jamie Smith, who has become one of the sharpest producers in pop since The xx's debut. You hear the hands of Smith more prominently on this record: The beats and musical backdrops are more varied and command more attention. While xx sounded more like '80s post-punk, plenty of moments here feel like straight-up club music.
It's still the vocals that make The xx's music so emotionally indelible. If the songwriting on Coexist isn't as strong as it was on the first album, the magnified grooves make up for it. That's encouraging because with so many half-baked club jams masquerading as pop songs these days, it's good to hear pop musicians who understand the magic of a perfect dance beat.