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The xx’s debut album was a seriously good album: an ambient symphony of sound, which was only quelled by Romy Madley Croft’s haunting vocals. Their second album would have a tough act to follow, but Coexist certainly steps up to the plate. From start to finish that ominously heart breaking sound of their first album resonates; with each song ensuring that us listeners pay attention and feel every word as if they were coming out of our own mouths.
Coexist opens with ‘Angels’: a clear contender for opening song at forthcoming gigs, as was the case at this year’s Bestival. It is an ethereal, heady mix of sound with a repeating guitar riff as well as the repetition of the word ‘love’, a constant reminder of the force of the emotion that Croft feels. That blissful feeling of “being as in love with you as I am” is soon crushed when ‘Chained’, the most heart wrenching song on the album, begins. It hits you real hard, right in the stomach, as you listen to Croft and Sim fight a losing battle. Jamie xx’s signature style is evident in ‘Sunset’, picking you up into a frenzy as only The xx can whilst still remaining ultra-cool and minimal. Similarly, ‘Swept Away’ is a teasing glimpse into a dance track, minus the bass drop which comes abruptly after ‘Unfold’, possibly the most musically depressing song on Coexist with its minor chords and ominous echo. The album is rounded off with ‘Our Song’, which is the most direct song of the album and showcases the relationship between Croft and Sim beautifully. With its hypnotising vocals and white noise, ‘Our Song’ sums up a complicated paring: “and at times when no one wants to, I will give you me and we’ll be us”.
Coexist encapsulates much of the same sound as xx – heavily pregnant pauses, barely heard vocals and an ambient dream-like trance, but what it does avoid are songs that could be understood as mainstream, even pop songs, which are often used for adverts and seriously intense TV scenes. Instead, Coexist, ahem, exists as a whole and should be appreciated in that way: the album begins with the expectation that Croft, Sim and Smith will tear apart your heart, and ends with it put back together in the completely wrong way. Love is their metier and although the soulful sound of sadness is often disguised behind pulsating beats and steel drums; that beauty that The xx exude cannot help but make you feel utterly depressed and saddened as well as totally refreshed and alive.