Best known for their unique and distinct minimalistic sounds that blur the lines between indie pop, dance music and R&B, The XX have finally come back together after five years to create an album filled with evocative emotions accompanied by warm vocals and subtle rhythmic beats that take us onto reflective journeys of their personal experiences.
I See You is the third album by The XX, the London trio formed by Jamie XX, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, and is unlike anything they have done before. This album is much more about how they see one another, and how they see themselves within the world, but also it shines on and emphasizes each member’s artistic capability.
The first track of the album, Dangerous, is a shot of adrenaline with vibrant and rhythmic sounds that immediately tell those who are used to their previous musical aesthetic that this album will be different from their first two albums, xx and Coexist. Dangerous opens with a decisive sound of brass instruments, immediately followed by the pulsating percussion beats by Jamie xx, which create the backbone of this track, and by the lyrical vocals of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. This is a song about dangerous liaisons, and the way I see it, the beats of Dangerous exuberates the desire for freedom, excess, and dynamism.
2. Say Something Loving
The second track, titled SaySomethingLoving, starts off with a borrowed verse from the late 70s Alessi Brothers’ Do You Feel It?, which creates an initial sense of nostalgia. It is immediately meshed into more contemporary synthesizer pad beats and slowly built into the sound of echoed guitars and warm lyrics that express the anxious feeling of becoming infatuated with someone. The second track feels already really far from the first track, as it presents a slower tempo.
“My name on your lips - Your air in my lungs - Drowned in oxygen - Now you’ve set the scene - High on intimacy - Drawing me above.”Lips presents this slow, suave, and rhythmic tempo that perfectly describes the need, the metaphorical addiction for the one we desire.
4. A Violent Noise
This track is slow paced, and it brings you into a introspective swirl. In fact, A Violent Noise contemplates on how easily it is to lose yourself within the excesses brought about by a partying lifestyle. Oliver sings through his own personal experience on the sublime beats of Jamie xx, while Romy comes in with one verse wishing his friend to find what he has been looking for.
As we move down the track list of the I See Youalbum, the songs become more and more self-reflective, filled with heavy feelings, bringing us on an emotional journey that narrates bits and pieces of The XX’s personal experiences and stories. Performancefeatures an unaccompanied Romy; the track is slow, filled with agony, and she sings about how we hide ourselves behind masks to suffocate the pain that is inside us, that we give the illusion that everything is fine when is not.
“Mirroring situations, accurate imitation – Do I watch and repeat? – And as if I tried to, I turned out just like you – Do we watch and repeat?”Replica talks about the trio's challenge to avoid making the same mistakes their parents did, to resist from becoming like them and avoid the path of self-destruction. Melodically, Replica represents another shift in the album; the intimate feeling that we were getting used to in the previous three tracks is now evolving into a mid-tempo and emotional ride that adds colorful layers into the melody of the song.
7. Brave For You
This song is about Romy coping with her parents’ deaths, becoming brave and pushing herself out of her comfort zone to do the things she would be afraid of doing because that is what they would have wanted for her, to be brave in life. The sound of the track is emotionally charged with rhythmic beats that come into waves of different tempos while creating a symphony.
8. On Hold
On Hold is the lead single of The XX’s I See You album, and one of my personal favorites. It talks about a relationship that loses its spark, its moment, but still tries to wait around to see if that love is worth being put on hold, and the sound and beats of this song are the metaphor of it. The warm vocals of Romy and Oliver are juxtaposed to the upbeat sounds created by Jamie xx, but there is a beautiful contradiction between the lyrics and the sound, so contradictory that I can imagine myself skating and dancing in a rollerblading arena with a disco ball reflecting light everywhere.
9. I Dare You
The track opens with drum beats accompanied by the sublime melody of keyboards, creating this contrast of rhythmic tempo and soothing sound The XX do best, and Oliver singing this first verse: “I’m in love with it – Intoxicated – I’m in rapture – From the inside I can feel that you want to – Wake up high on it – Feel it suspending – I’m enamored – Way up in the sky I can see that you want to.”I Dare You is about being infatuated with someone, feeling the butterflies in your stomach, and feeling romantic.
10. Test Me
The last song, Test Me, is the slowest paced track on the album. It feels serious, like a discussion; the lyrics are filled with honesty and they describe the rage and concern a friend feels towards another friend. Test Me talks about the friendship dynamics between the members of The XX as each of them went their separate ways for couple years after the release of their previous album Coexist; Jamie xx went on to record and tour his own solo album, Romy spent time in Los Angeles to further improve her understanding of the pop industry while Oliver was back home in London struggling with alcoholism. Test Me is about coming to a resolution where each member opens up about how they feel towards each other.
The lyrics, the warm vocals, and the rhythmic beats of The XX’s I See You album have accompanied me on the long drives around Los Angeles while taking me through self-reflective journeys. The nostalgic feeling that this album evokes took me down a memory lane of the past five years I have been in this city, reviving moments of joy and frustration, of successful achievements and painful failures, and of excitement and disappointment. I could say that these songs and their melodies have become the soundtrack to my feelings towards Los Angeles, to the people that came and went, and those who are still around, to the experiences that contributed to my personal growth, and to the remaining time I have left in this city before I say “until next time.”