Kasey’s blackberry cobbler is probably one of the most popular dishes she has served at a dinner party this year. It was hot, melty, sweet and positively irresistible. A good pairing for The xx. The xx are a southwest London band whose debut album, XX, happens to be one of the year’s best releases. Singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft’s whispery, sensual vocals positively melt like ice cream across warm layers of reverb, rivers of wobbling bass tones, and slowly dissipating guitars. The result is a beautifully nuanced record that, like many of the best albums, rewards repeated listens and donning a pair of great headphones and turning the dial way up.
The xx formed as a quartet back in 2005 having met at London’s Elliott School (which was also the alma mater for Four Tet, Burial, Hot Chip & Dragonforce’s guitarist). At the time, they were performing light-hearted Pixies covers with “a funky house beat”, before getting serious about writing their own material. They recorded much of the the debut at night in a garage at XL studios, a setting that seems fitting in light of the album’s whisper-y and echo-y atmosphere. Indeed, the album’s vocals (a responsibility shared by Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim) sound almost like the hushed post-coital whispers of two former lovers in an empty bedroom late at night. It is spacious, intimate music that is sexy without being ostentatious. “VCR” features a rigid guitar riff underlined by persistent bass and Madley Croft and Sim’s hushed, affectless vocals singing: “but you, you just know, you just do.” It is followed by the thinly-sliced, expertly-seasoned cut “Crystalised,” which features a sparse sonic landscape and an Interpol-esque guitar rhythm. Impressively, the xx don’t just “get by” without a drummer, they turn that absence into a virtue, relying instead on Sim’s pulsing bass and occasional handclaps, such as on the velvety tune “Heart Skipped a Beat,” to move their melodies forward. Buy a copy on vinyl to spin on your record player late at night while enjoying a bottle of red wine with your lover: get it at Amazon or Insound.
The Xx – Heart Skipped a Beat (MP3 removed)
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