The xx Deliver a Pleasant Third LP with ‘I See You’
The xx return with cool, calm, and collected third album, ‘I See You.’ Chemistry, production, and vocals are major selling points.
Alternative band The xx return with their highly anticipated third studio album, I See You. In November 2016, Jamie “xx” Smith, Romy Madley Croft, and Oliver Sim returned with single, “On Hold.” Following the would-be promo single, The xx dropped one more intriguing single, “Say Something Loving.” Finally, I See You arrives in its entirety, and the results are successful all in all.
“Dangerous” kicks off I See You with controlled punch. While the brass hits give the opener an edge, the record never grows raucous or loses the sense of control. Nonetheless, the groove is infectious, while the cool, calm, and collected approach of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim is successful. Electrifying isn’t a fitting a description, but “Dangerous” sets the bar high for I See You.
“Say Something Loving”
“Say Something Loving” opens with an Alessi Brothers sample – “Before it slips away” – that recurs throughout the record. Rhythmic tension is established following the intro. This intensity remains throughout the chorus. A romantic song, Sim and Croft tackle the insecurities brought upon them by love. While the chorus varies throughout the song, the sentiment is consistent:
“You say something loving / it’s so overwhelming, the thrill of affection / feels so unfamiliar / you say something loving / without hesitation it hits me, hits me / it feels so unfamiliar.”
Croft leads the charge on the first verse of the low-key follow-up “Lips.” Amazingly, “Lips” packs a punch without breaking a sweat. Sim, predictably, kicks off the second verse, maintaining the poise of his partner-in-crime. While the record floats as opposed to being assertive and dynamic, it is pleasant. Pleasant is the perfect adjective for I See You.
Despite its title, “A Violent Noise” sounds anything but violent. While The xx don’t seem to have a violent bone in their body, there is rhythmic intensity, established by the synths. Production continues to be a strong suit of I See You, shining once more on this tasteful joint.
“Performance” is nothing short of radiant, showcasing Croft at her best. Subtle for the most part, the authenticity shines through, with Croft delivering one of the best performances (and songs) of I See You. In addition to her fantastic voice, the strings are a selling point.
“Replica” restores the groove to I See You, a prudent move following the balladry of “Performance.” Oliver Sim is the aggressor here but remains as composed as ever. Croft tastefully provides backing vocals. On “Brave for You,” she takes the reins once more. A song of courage, “Brave for You” is respectable, if slightly lukewarm.
Standout buzz single “On Hold” superbly whetted the listener’s palette ahead of I See You. As the album materializes, “On Hold” remains as the record to beat. It opens warmly, with a beautiful timbre established by pads and synths. There is exceptional vocal chemistry and contrast between Croft and Sim. This contributes to the magic without question.
I See You concludes with the bright, groovy “I Dare You” and the more spacey, experimental “Test Me.” “Test Me,” in particular, is haunting. Both are fine contributions to the overall product. Neither supersedes gems like “Say Something Loving” or “On Hold.”
All in all, I See You is an enjoyable, well-conceived project by The xx. The xx release an effort that trends on the quiet side, but isn’t devoid of rhythm. At times, I See You falls victim to merely serving the role of background music. That’s not a bad thing, but a smidge more assertiveness at times wouldn’t have hurt. Still, I See You is worthwhile.
Gems: “Dangerous,” “Say Something Loving,” “Performance” & “On Hold”