Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Leaky Pipes: A First Look at Coexist

The xx - Coexist

I have obtained a leaked copy of The xx's Coexist. After a couple of listens all the way through, I have reached a conclusion on my first impression of the album: It's lackluster.

What made The xx so interesting was their use of minimalism to inspire such a burning, grand sound. Every track glistened or was so covered in darkness, only an outline of something larger was broadcasted. It was the beautiful dichotomy between songs like "Shelter" and "Crystalized" that drew a listener into a constant rotation of the record. XX bloomed; Coexist sprouts, revealing an almost unfinished product. 

All of these dark, sparse songs come as a huge surprise considering Jamie XX, the band's producer and beat maker, revealed what would be the first details about Coexist, in an interview with Pitchfork:
I think it will definitely sound different than the last album and anything I've ever done, just because our ears have been opened to so much music. Two years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of listening to most of the stuff I listen to now. Like, I wasn't interested in techno and house at all before but, when I was in Chicago, I bought a bunch of Dance Mania records from the 80s and 90s, and I've listened to a lot of that.
I had Coexist pinned to be more of the dance inspired bass music Jamie XX was doing solo, or the Gil-Scott Heron remix album. I was sure the record would be a lot more of the stuff I loved off of XX, but with more "danceability." What Coexist does do is create a dark veil over the music, one that I'm sure will eventually lift, revealing a melancholic beauty, but for the first time through, it feels too shrouded.

With singles "Angels" and "Chained", The xx displayed the usual slow build, but with shifty, unpredictable drums. These features only make slight appearances in the other songs on the album, "Missing" being a highlight of this; you can feel the heartbeat, uncertainty, and hurt in the production. "Try" starts off with an eery guitar riff, yet it seems to stay at the same pace and never really excites. A lot of other songs, like "Tides" and "Our Song", feel almost like sketches or outlines for a larger song, never fully building into anything.

But maybe this is exactly where The xx is going, a starless yearning that is never fulfilled. It certainly doesn't produce anything you can show to someone and have them instantly latch onto, much like what XX accomplished. For right now, after a half-dozen listen throughs, Coexist feels more like an "honorable mention," for what it aims for, than a "best of," because of what it accomplishes.

Grade: B-

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