Alec Reviews Music: The xx’s ‘I See You’ is ambitious and atmospheric

Alec Erickson

The long anticipated wait is now over. The follow up album to 2012’s “Coexist” is finally released and it aims to take The xx to a much higher place then they have been before. It is rare to have a third studio album feel so fresh and yet so familiar at the same time, yet that is exactly the case with “I See You.” We see the band in a much more experimental stage than we have before, and it seems to work out for the best.

The xx - I See You.jpg
Photo Courtesy: iTunes

London indie pop trio The xx have been around for the better part of the last 12 years. Members Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith released their debut album “xx” in 2009. It was not until the release of their second studio album “Coexist” in 2012 that launched the band to mainstream fame, especially in the states. The album would go on to peak at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 list. We have come to know the band to have this melancholy sound with haunting vocals that stick with you long after listening. You can expect all that and a lot more this time around with “I See You.”

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“I See You” is a ten-track record that clocks in to be about 40 minutes long. From front to back this record is structured to take you on an emotional trip. It is more than easy enough to lose yourself while listening, but it keeps bringing you back in to listen again and again. There is a lot here to really admire, from the much less gloomy and bleak sound to the strategically structured and layered tracks. “I See You” is some of the bands best work to date and having this record release at the beginning of the year sets the bar high for all the other artists.

Musically, there is a lot here that you could not find on “xx” or “Coexist” From the start, on tracks like “Dangerous” or “Say Something Love” we get a lot more texture with horns. Additionally, guitars are mixed incredibly well with the vocals and beats to the tracks. It is not hard with this record to find something to nod your head along to the beat. The main thing you really need to admire is that there are so many new elements for the band here that are refreshing to hear. While “Coexist” was a great record in its own regard, it was limited in structure in a way that “I See You” is not. There is a lot more at work here in this record and tracks like “On Hold” and “Replica” prove how much the band has grown and experimented in the last four years.

Lyrically, I would not call “I See You” bleak like I would with “Coexist.” In fact, I would say it is little bit more upbeat and a lot of the tracks even sound hopeful. While it is still a dramatic record with tracks like “A Violent Noise” or “Brave for You.” There is also some optimism with some of the music present here, like tracks “I Dare You” or “Test Me,” which close out the record on a much more different note than how it began. We can hear some influence from Jamie xx’s solo work here in this record. While most of the subject matter is tackling relationships, it is the delivery of the vocals that really sells each track. There is at least something here that everyone can relate to in some way.

Should you listen to it?: YES!

2017 is off to a strong start and that is in large part due to The xx. “I See You” is such a strong and well-rounded record that it is hard to find something not to like about it. It is certainly much more ambitious than previous works from the band, and in a way succeeds at a level that the last two records did not. It is different and unique and longtime fans will appreciate how fresh and new this record sounds to them. For new listeners they will appreciate how catchy and infectious that some of the tracks can be. “I See You” is a record that is worth checking out.