The XX take a traditional line-up, drums, bass, keyboard, guitars, vocals, throw in some avant garde bed-sit love songs and produce something that sounds as fragile as a dew-covered spider’s web, but, like the silk that makes the web, is deceptively strong. The lo-fi beats and synths background draws the melody to the fore and gives plenty of space for the male and female vocals in the 11 songs here.
“VCR” speaks of evenings of natural intimacy from a band whose singers, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft, “learned to speak together”. The XX use the contrast between the stripped-back sound and closeness of the duets to fine effect. “Islands” uses the lyrics, “See what I’ve done/ That bridge is on fire/ Going back to where I’ve been/ I’m froze by desire/ No need to leave// Where would I be/ if this were to go under/ It’s a risk I’d take/ I’m froze by desire/ As if a choice I’d make”. That “froze” (rather than “frozen”) hinting at incompleteness and that this island of love might not be entirely a free choice. “Shelter” probably sums up the band’s aims best, “It felt so crystal/ In the air/ I still want to drown/ Whenever you leave/ Please teach me gently/ How to breathe.”
The songs grow on you: managing that trick of seeming familiar yet drawing you in to notice layers you didn’t hear at first. It’s that trick that will ensure their audience grows as their musical maturity does.