The xx’s Second Album “Coexist” Smoulders.

The xx burst into life in 2009, and their epony­mous debut album was many peo­ple’s album of the year. Coin­ci­den­tal­ly, like Hot Chip and Four Tet, they too are grad­u­ates of the Elliott com­pre­hen­sive school in Put­ney, in Lon­don. Though appar­ent­ly, that’s all it is.

At that time they were a four­some, but by the time they won the Mer­cury Prize in 2010 they’d “decid­ed” to become a threesome.

That suc­cess and the wave of pub­lic and crit­i­cal acclaim that it ush­ered in saw their music make the by now tra­di­tion­al jour­ney into the movies, games and ads circuit.

So it’s a tad sur­pris­ing that their fol­low-up, Coex­ist should make its way in to the pub­lic are­na so very qui­et­ly. Or per­haps that’s just a reflec­tion of that invari­ably dif­fi­cult sec­ond album syndrome. 

As the boys from Prav­da ask in their review, giv­ing it an appre­cia­tive 7.5 here, do you refine what you’ve already done, or head off in a new direction?

They’ve gone with the for­mer, and the paired and stripped down lo-fi sound of their debut has if any­thing been even fur­ther reduced. Accord­ing to Jamie xx, who stands behind the front pair man­ning the drums and twid­dling the nobs (and who recent­ly teamed up with Gil Scott-Heron for the just­ly laud­ed We’re New Here album), they’d intend­ed giv­ing their sec­ond effort more of a club­bable vibe.

But the only one of the tracks on Coex­ist that you could ever imag­ine sur­fac­ing on the dance-floor is “Swept Away”.

What you get instead is a seduc­tive­ly evoca­tive night­time cityscape that’s less Cin­e­maS­cope than it is draped in neon. Think Stu­art Sta­ples duet­ing with Tracey Horn on an off-shoot of 4AD.

Too dance­able to be con­ven­tion­al­ly chill-out, but not enough to be ful­ly club­bable, it occu­pies instead its own unique spot. And that’s what the xx and this album have that’s so sat­is­fy­ing­ly seduc­tive; their own sound.

If you missed them first time around, here’s your chance to catch up. And you can see them per­form the sin­gle “Angels” from the album on the Jools Hol­land show here. 

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