January 9, 2017

Photo by Laura Coulson

One of our favorite new releases, out today, comes courtesy of U.K. trio The xx. Their third album I See You is available now in all UO stores and online.

“Do I chase the night or does the night chase me?” Oliver Sim sings on “Replica,” a mid-album cut from The xx’s third release I See You. Such a line can encompass the UK band’s entire career thus far: moody nighttime music with enough ambiance to fill an underground dance club. “They all say I will become a replica” Sim and co-vocalist Romy Madley Croft later sing in unison before producer Jamie “Jamie xx” Smith’s tropical steel pan swells over the group’s signature plucky guitar lines.

The hours in between dusk and dawn have both blessed and haunted The xx and with I See You, the trio is emerging from the darkness to offer a glimpse of themselves. The album’s first notes — brassy horns — are the flares that usher the listener into this new phase.

Since the release of their self-titled debut in 2009 and its follow-up, Coexist, in 2012, The xx have existed in their own contained bubble of intimacy, soft whispers, and heartbreaking torment, singing to each other to share tales that were once meant for none. Their audience was each other: Madley Croft and Sim would write their lyrics separately while Smith would later add his bits, the depth that gave the songs spatial atmosphere. However, when it came time to create I See You, the band took a different approach, recording in New York City, Marfa, Texas and Iceland, frequently workshopping the songs for friends along the way. The beginning of this process coincided with the making of Smith’s solo debut In Colour.

Photo by Alasdair McLellan

The vivid sonic template that brought In Colour to life were utilized on I See You, and much like the album’s lead single “On Hold,” the productions grow and bloom and are given the room to truly take the spotlight rather than sulk in the background. “A Violent Noise” features pangs of techno; album closer “Test Me” is an exemplary showing of the group’s ability to create an environment that builds from eerie echoes to highlight keys and ambient vocal samples.

Lyrically, the band is at their most frank. Madley Croft confronts her parents’ deaths on “Brave For You,” “Though you’re not here / I can feel you there,” she sings. “How could eyes this wide lose sight of a world outside? / I’ve looked away,” Sim details on “ A Violent Noise,” a song that addresses the comedown from a youth of nightlife, offering insight on his struggle with alcohol.

It’s with these conscious efforts, the band steps into the spotlight of their own making. No longer lurking in the shadows of a lover’s dimly lit bedroom, The xx revel still in the hurt, in the pride of friendship, but now in the act of performance, individuality and overcoming the struggles that once plagued them.

Now at Urban Outfitters, the new album from The xx, I See You.