By Nick Erickson, Staff writer
Though it can be argued that most conventional pop music is simplistic in composition, the term “minimalism” seems to carry a negative stipulation with it. However, there are bands that present a stripped-down style, without watering down the emotion or passion within. One of these bands is British indie-pop trio, The xx. With two albums under their wing, their newest work, “I See You,” feels more natural than ever before.
The trio’s first album together in more than four years, “I See You” is a fresh sound from 2012’s “Coexist.” Comprised of singer/guitarists Jamie Smith and Madley Croft and singer/bassist Oliver Sim, the band fits perfectly together, equally contributing to their own piece of the dance-floor-esque synthy beats presented. Creeping into the listener’s ears is opener “Dangerous.” “They say you are dangerous, but I don’t care,” Smith sings over an ambitious horn loop and a funky bass line that don’t show any mercy.
“I Dare You” makes use of an ordinary, clapped beat with vocal harmonies provided by both Croft and Sim, who sing of infatuation. Similarly, “Lips” conveys its message through the use of tropical vibes.
When the topic shifts from love drunkenness to the loss of Croft’s parents on “Brave For You,” it’s gut-wrenching in the best of ways and ultimately the highlight of the album.
“So I will be brave for you
Stand on a stage for you
Do the things that I’m afraid to do
I know you want me to.”
The pain can be felt in Croft’s voice as she sings over a light beat and staccato keyboard hits. Her timbre is carried well in the reverb it’s engulfed in and gives off a vibe of feeling enclosed, almost as a reflection of her internal struggle with the loss. Croft also shines on “Performance,” an ode to romantic heartbreak. The cautious strummed guitar and faint strings are enough to push her hurt front and center for the listener to empathize with.
Soft, somber piano chords pave “I See You” to the closer, “Test Me.” The band drew inspiration from their own demons encountered in years past, including Sim’s alcohol addiction. The strain is reflected as the band sings in unison. “Test me, see if I stay,” the trio sings. “How could I walk the other way?” It’s haunting and ambient, resolving the album to a powerful coda.
The saying “There’s beauty in simplicity” holds truth, and The xx pulls it off better than the average pop-infused indie band. While their instrumentation is basal, it’s for good reason, as it helps to aim the spotlight on what they succeed at most: their dynamic range of emotion. “I See You” will surely see its way to the top of the Billboard.