In the Post #156: the xx return with ‘I See You’ album taster ‘On Hold’

By on Tuesday, 22nd November 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

the xx first burst on the scene nearly a decade ago as dream pop misfits. Touring as support for their Beggars Group peers Friendly Fires, it was hard to see that superstardom loomed on the horizon for this unconventional band with complementary male and female lead vocals. Yet the music from their 2009 self-titled and Mercury Prize-winning debut album released on Young Turks proved irresistible to tv sync producers and the media alike, their songs appearing on promos for NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the BBC’s coverage of the 2010 general election. Soon, they were selling out venues with no trouble at all, and their was on everyone’s lips.

Their sophomore album, 2012’s ‘Coexist’, garnered top marks from nearly every music review outlet across the board. Then there was a strange and unexplained silence. I’d argue that their mention in spring 2014 that they were working on album #3 was simply dangling a carrot and doing no-one any favours; to me, you’ve got new music or you don’t, don’t play with the emotions of your devoted fans. In summer 2015, their beats master Jamie Smith who is professionally known as Jamie xx released his debut album ‘In Colour’. In a surprise move, exemplary single ‘Loud Places’ and ‘SeeSaw’ from the album featured the vocals of his xx bandmate Romy Madley-Croft, who with other xx member Oliver Sim were seen posing in a photo on Instagram with Smith. Were the xx on their way back to us?

So, xx fans, you’ll be pleased to know that their third album ‘I See You’ will be released on the 13th of January 2017 on Young Turks. The week of the election, I really wasn’t in the right mindset to listen and to appropriately deliberate on the their new song to preview their new LP. A week and a half after its unveiling, I’m ready now, and I can’t help but be discoursed by what I hear. In a weird instance of art imitating life, it seems that in music that assimilation, instead of celebrating differences and pushing boundaries, is the chosen route to success.

‘On Hold’ is not about a phone conversation but a relationship that was put on the back burner, with the principals sadly finding out that love can’t thrive in a vacuum. Neglect, as some of us have learned firsthand, often strikes a bond of love stone cold dead. The best part of the song are Madley-Croft and Sim’s trademark gently competing vocals, but the painful rhymes built into this song (“when or where did we go cold / I thought I had you on hold”) are cringeworthy. The beats of Jamie xx, while fun, dance floor worthy and I guess a nice segue on from ‘In Colour’, fill up what always was welcome negative space on past xx efforts. I view this as a major misstep. The most important graphic artists of modern times weren’t afraid of negative space. They were viewed as revolutionaries because they didn’t follow everyone else. And sometimes – and especially in these volatile times – the world needs artists confident enough to go against the grain. I don’t hear anything in here that makes me go “wow!” or “that’s amazing!”

The band were the musical guests on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live; NME noted how awkward the group looked onstage at 30 Rock in their goth cowboy attire. Not exactly . Maybe their misfit personalities that we fell in love in the beginning will become more prominent on the rest of ‘I See You’? Here’s to hoping…

6.5/10

Stay tuned for the xx’s third album ‘I See You’, which is due for release on the 13th of January 2017. An audio stream version of ‘On Hold’, the lyrics noted in the comments in ‘screaming’ capital letters, is available below. For much more of TGTF’s coverage of the xx, use this link.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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