xxSouth London’s the xx are not ones for extravagance. They are four twenty year olds who play songs about love and loss, longing and pain. Their style of playing is very minimalistic, focusing more on atmospherics and how different instrument parts come together as opposed to firing on all systems.

However, with their self titled debut, the band has taken the age old adage “less is more” and run with it. In the process, they have created something of beauty. They have arrive with an album that blends together emotional lyrics, pronounced but subtle instrumentation, and a number of songs that could help them break it big if they wanted to. That’s a lot to say for a first effort.

Opening track “Intro” sets an atmosphere that remains consistent throughout the course of the album. The guitar playing is very pronounced, while at the same time giving off a sense of space.  The bass and synthesized drums provide a strong back bone, and the electronics further expand the sound. While it is a very simple concept, when it all comes together, the instrumentation gives off a full sound that is filled with hooks.  It provides the perfect backdrops for the groups’ secret weapon, dual vocalists Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft.

One of the most unique things about the xx is how the playoff between Sim and Croft adds a layer of depth to the tales of love and heartache. Sim’s dry, almost detached delivery perfectly compliments Croft’s breathy alto. “Heart Skipped a Beat”, an album highlight, provides an excellent example of this. Sim plays a boy who feels that the relationship ended too soon, while Croft emotes that she was unable to reach him in the first place. However, they still feel a longing for one another when they sing “But sometimes, I still need you.” Having the two vocalists play off of each other like this has an emotional effect that would not be possible otherwise.

There are many strong tracks on xx, including the Croft-only “Shelter,” “Infinity,” and “Crystallized.” Each song plays to the groups’ strengths, and highlights their talents. However, it is second singe “Basic Space” that shines the brightest. It best encapsulates what the band is all about. It has a sense of urgency that is unmatched on the album, and it contains a chorus that combines the culmination of the instrumentation and Sim and Croft’s voices to a mesmerizing effect. It is easily one of the best singles of the year in any genre.

With this album, the xx have not only proven that they have a great amount of potential, but that they are a band that needs to be taken seriously. This is an album that will warrant multiple listens to gain its full effect, but when it is as strong as memorable as the songs presented here, it will be well worth it. The number of quality tracks, the proficiency of the performances, and the overall feel of the album make for a mighty fine debut, and one that is easy to recommend to anyone.

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