The most eclectic, multidimensional, and ambitious album of The xx’s young career.
The band retains its core strengths (pillowtalk vocals, echoing, urbane guitar lines) while expanding its sonic reach and stretching for the bleacher seats. It’s an excellent and surprisingly comforting way to begin 2017.
The xx have taken in all the experiences and lessons they have learned since their breakthrough and come up with their most adventurous and quietly uplifting release to date.
I See You is a much-needed and very successful recalibration of what defines the xx as a band. Without sacrificing any of the confessional, emotionally rich material that made us love them in the first place, the band has dispensed with self-consciousness and proven their ability to expand upon previously held identities, thus cementing their continuing preeminence in the indie music world.
‘I See You’ is perhaps the bravest album of the band’s career, the one laden with the most changes, with the most prolonged journeys into the unexpected. Yet it also feels resolutely like The xx.
Throughout the album you can still hear the band's penchant for complex arrangements, dreampop vocals, and the call and response storytelling between Oliver Sim and Romy Croft. No genre is off limits for the U.K. outfit: the band experiments with pop, R&B, jazz, and even gospel this time around.
I See You, the third album by the xx, sounds like an attempt to incorporate everyone’s talents into a new version of their sound, one true to their roots but richer and more varied.
Add up the creative sampling and the synchronized dancing, and we get a revamped version of The xx that hinges less on awkwardness and anxiety and more on another, unexpected “A” word: ambition.
While nothing will compare to the band's exceedingly unattainable debut, it is refreshing to see the band learn from their mistakes on Coexist and create something new and intriguing, but still ultimately them.
I See You is some of their most captivating music since their debut.
On ‘I See You’ we meet a new tactile version of The xx. They’re relaxed, warm, joyful even ... They find a balance with the old xx though. Fragility and self-doubt are still themes.
I See You is a sprawling album. The band has embraced the spectacle, yet it is not the antithesis of their previous minimalist work.
‘I See You’ sees the trio taking full advantage of the producer’s big league status, applying his trademark to their traditionally gloomy, loved-up pop. But it’s also a record that sees co-vocalists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim taking on bold new territory.
I See You pulls off the feat of managing to sound both exactly like the xx and unlike anything they have done before.
This is the sound of the xx growing up and examining how far they’ve travelled. I See You is more nuanced and upbeat than their previous records but, perhaps shrewdly, it enhances their blueprint rather than completely redrawing it.
I See You is a pleasant enough listen, and in embracing Smith’s more hot-blooded production, the xx have avoided becoming stuck in a rut a second time. Yet like Sim and Madley-Croft in song after song, I See You still leaves me wanting something undefined: something more.
Hushes and pockets of space fall away and there is a strain to fill those gaps and move toward a musical extroversion. The album, then, becomes stuck in a middle ground between past and future.
The record passes by pleasantly and there is much to be commended but I See You seldom truly penetrates.
The xx largely avoided any major pitfalls here, coming out the other side with a consistently rewarding pop album that retains enough of their sonic signature to please old fans and enough new sounds to pique the interest of the unconvinced.
The xx have never been so unguarded, either emotionally or in their musical ambitions. The result is as haunting as ever.
The xx’s heavily hinted-at pop confidence has arrived, to frequently exhilarating and occasionally deflating effect.