Throwback Thursday: “xx” by The XX

Before I wrote this post, I actually hadn’t listened to this album in several years. I often come to these throwback posts relatively “fresh,” building on my memories of the song or album before turning my attention to how it feels, what it sounds like, in the present. I find that duality fascinating.

“Intro” was really creepy the first time I heard it. It’s got a deep, ominous beat that drags slowly before crunching into something faster. The whole song feels empty, enhanced by the atmospheric and abstract vocal layer. Listening to it now, it still sounds creepy and sad, even the faster moments. This sets a curious tone for the rest of the album, which ultimately proves fitting given its focus on love and loss. No wonder xx became such a hit; these are universal themes, of course, and Jamie xx’s production puts them in a modern setting.

I always liked “VCR,” though. Its beat is simplistic and sounds like it’s made out of a xylophone. Oliver Sim and Romy Croft have a soft duet musing about a past relationship. They seem both nostalgic about it and accepting that maybe it’s time to “wanna find myself by the sea, in another’s company…” This is contrasted by the safety described in “Islands”: “I am yours now, so now I never have to leave.” (Sidebar: the beat of “Islands” reminds me of “Young Folks” by Peter Bjorn and John.)

Many of the songs on xx are very short. The longest song, perhaps fittingly, is called “Infinity.” That one is neatly punctuated by snares and sustained by finger snaps as Sim and Croft describe another sad relationship. I like that the album is this tight. The xx get to the point right away and carry you with them.