(young turks; 2009)
The XX’s debut is imbued with that same seductive, midtempo but it feels like slow-motion aesthetic that other bands may spend many futile years trying to capture. Slick beats throb rather than detonate, giving XX a Young Marble Giants meet 21st century production with a brooding, skeletal groove feel.
The first tune to reel listeners in will likely be “VCR,” a twinkling ditty with lead vocal duties seamlessly alternating between equally detached singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. Rather than getting lost in affected, effusive soundscapes or sonic clutter, the quartet is well aware of its limitations.
The band met at London’s Elliott School, the alma mater of established acts Hot Chip, Burial, and Four Tet, this promising outfit certainly has the pedigree to write first-rate music and it is employed throughout the entirety of this outing.
The atmosphere is terrific as it effectively conjures the numbness of urban alienation and the hazy late-night stupor.
Some may bemoan the lack of variety in the band’s arsenal while others will be entirely engrossed in the cohesive affair. The themes are unapologetically carried out from start to finish and the commitment to an overarching thread suits these minimalist, moody tracks like a glove.
Seldom do newcomers possess such a firm grasp on what works for them and what does not. This troupe does, weaving a lean, alluring journey that never sinks into the overly serious. For every moment that threatens to wander off toward dimmer alleys, there are infectious, percussion-driven ditties such as “Islands,” “Heart Skipped A Beat,” or “Basic Space” pulling one of the year’s finest discoveries back to the safety of the curb.
Trial Track: “Basic Space”