The xx have announced Night + Day, a series of events in Berlin, Lisbon and London. More information here www.thexx.info/nightandday
The xx play O2 Brixton Academy in December in celebration of the release of their new album, Coexist.
In 2009 the south London trio’s debut album ‘xx’, quietly made at night over the course of two years, bled steadily into the public consciousness to become shorthand for newly refined ideas of teenage desire and anxiety. Articulated with a maturity beyond their years, its hallmarks were restraint and ambiguity. In the age of the over-share, ‘xx’ was pop with its privacy settings on max.
Where ‘xx’ lent in close to whisper in your ear, ‘Coexist’ gazes warmly in your eyes. Much has happened to lead to this point: most pertinently, they’ve grown up. “The newest thing that we’ve done on this record is that me and Romy wrote in a room together,” explains Oliver. “We went into a room with nothing and talked through early ideas together, which was fun but bizarre because we’ve never done that before. I also sang one of Romy’s lyrics for the first time, which felt really nice.”
“We just ended up playing new stuff to each other to try and write which was a fun way to do it,” explains Jamie. It wasn’t always plain sailing: “The idea I had at the beginning when we started wasn’t the right idea because I’d been in a place where I was making music for Drake and other people, and myself, and I’d kind of forgotten about working with these two, which is very different because we’re so close.” Jamie continues: “Learning to work together as grownups was the biggest thing – it’s the thing that influenced the album the most. We just needed to find a balance.”
Understanding that balance became the heart and soul of ‘Coexist’. “Jamie has done his solo stuff and Oliver and I have done separate things but The xx is only when we’re together. That’s when it’s really us,” explains Romy. “I was reading up on oil on water – when you see a puddle on the floor and it’s a rainbow. Oil and water don’t mix, they agree to peacefully coexist. I really liked that – these two simple things, oil and water, that together make something beautiful.”
While the fingerprints of R&B remain, ‘Coexist’s dawn realisations flicker into life under house music’s gaze, most resonant on Reunion, Sunset and Swept Away. It also echoes in Romy’s guitar riffs and Oliver’s bass lines, which circle and build like loops. “That’s something I love about dance music, how something insignificant can somehow become profound after the fifth repetition,” says Oliver.
Above all, though, ‘Coexist’ is an album of confident adult reflection. Angels, sung by Romy, is a perfectly distilled love song. Its counter is Fiction led by Oliver, a bittersweet ballad that’s strength lies in naming its fear. What has changed for The xx? Nothing, and everything. Older and wiser, surer yet still so tender, ‘Coexist’ finds itself on the other side of heartbreak, when the light returns.