The xx has an unknown, exciting future

“I See You” Review

Alex Tomazic, Staff Reporter

The xx cemented their sound with their first album “xx” (2009): the familiar echoing guitar, the tag team singing duo of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim and the groove provided by Jamie “xx” Smith. The trouble with having such an acclaimed debut album is that it is difficult to match up. After their sophomore release “Coexist” (2012), the trio has been somewhat quiet. However, amid the silence, a spark of brilliance shone brightly. Smith’s “In Colour” (2015) blew me away, quickly becoming my album of the summer. While not being an official The xx release, both Croft and Sim appear on two different tracks on “In Colour.”

“I See You” feels like a marriage between The xx’s earlier sound and Smith’s synth-heavy, funky electronic dance music solo effort. It grooves with a little bit of swagger, making it near impossible not to nod your head while listening to. The album is The xx’s biggest departure to date. That being said, it still sounds very much like a typical The xx album. “A Violent Noise” sounds like a bonus track from their first album; stripped down with reverberating guitar and vocals. Other tracks like “Dangerous” and “On Hold” sound like they belong on “In Colour.” They have groovy, drum machine beats and are sample driven.

“On Hold” finds a perfect sweet spot of tapping into The xx’s signature sound and weaving it with Jamie’s new style. The combination is infectious. This is song that makes me impatient for summer, when I can drive around with the windows down and crank the stereo all the way up. The xx hasn’t lost much of its emotional bite. “Performance” hits like a punch to the heart, with its chilling instrumentals and haunting vocals performed by Croft.

The only disappointing part is that The xx didn’t challenge their sound much. After hearing artists completely change their sounds from previous albums—like Bon Iver’s “22, A Million” and Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!”—I can’t help but feel like The xx could have explored different tones. When an artist takes risks, modifies their sound or goes for something completely different, the overall work has the potential to grow exponentially. Like I said, this is their most “different” album, but it certainly isn’t by much.

This album feels like a response the question: “Where do we go now?” It tries something new and slightly different, while relying on the sound of their previous albums. “I See You” is a pretty respectable chapter in an already critically acclaimed discography. My only question is: Where does The xx go from here?
Rating: 4/5