The First Album I Ever Bought…

Posted: October 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

By Ethan.

When I purchased the self titled album by the XX, it was not in a stylish branch of Rough Trade, nor was it with my Homies in downtown LA, I wasn’t wearing a pair of timeless boots that I’ve now decided to keep purely for the sentimental value. I was with a mate in HMV in Gatwick Airport. Hopefully, however, you and I can look past that and put our focus on how stylish and timeless this album is, how musically talented this trio is.

There is something in their tendency to only wear black, the tone of both the male voice of Oliver Sim and female Romy Madley Croft, or even just the fact that the album is made up of a male and a female singing in the harmonising ways that they do, utilising the bass guitar in the way that they do. There is something very dramatic about their style, which may give you, the reader who is yet to check them out idea that they are in fact ‘too much’, or just some superfluous effort. What is sublime, and really epitomises the whole album, is the manner in which that style is met by the engineering of this music.

‘Islands’ is a track that stays with that theme of relationship- but does so in a more metaphorical manner. The track also powerfully, yet subtly, hints towards that theme in the way that the male and female voice combine and harmonise; how the female voice begins with the more heartfelt and explicit lyrics, followed by the male taking over, reciting the lyrics below.

“See what I’ve done
That bridge is on fire
Back to where I’ve been
I’m froze by desire
No need to leave”

His words complement those from female Remy Madley Croft, they both mention satisfaction within each other, or ‘not needing to leave’. Those opening three lines mention a bridge on fire, which could be the reference to a relationship (“our bridges are burning”), and it’s as if Oliver Sim is saying he has ended a relationship in favour of his current one, which he wildly prefers. Those following couple of lines emphasise how much he prefers the current relationship, and that he is completely satisfied with his partner.

The song is paired with a rather wacky, dramatic and even pretentious music video: made up of several dozen short scenes, all a reconstruction of the previous scene, but with a small change, like one person was standing in one place in the last scene, now he’s standing in another. There are many takes you could give on what the whole thing is about, mine would be that it is trying to say, ‘with each stage of a relationship, things change for better or for worse’ (in fact based on this video things only get worse)- but whatever it means, from watching that video alone you can start to pick up the sense of the trio’s tone. That tendency to wear black, the sort of permanently disgusted looks on their faces, how they’re rather arty- like it or not, what is indisputable about their style is that they are consistent and thorough. They do not sport miserable, long faces and wear black in one song and then just later on in that album flounce around in fluorescent costumes singing about the beautiful weather- nor do they change their style musically, it’s pretty much the same instruments playing the same chords throughout.

Shelter, a few tracks later, is about repairing a relationship- and is poignantly sung by only the female voice. She apologises for her wrongdoings, she says she wants to make it better, and says she’ll do anything to do it, which is why I’d consider it the most romantic track of the album. The solo side to the track makes it more of a confession than a poem, a plea rather than an expression. Not that those ballad-like tracks aren’t emotional and about love, more that they do not as much expose negativity within a relationship, more that they talk about how great they are. Shelter is about recognising what’s gone wrong, and willpower to undo that, which gives it that prestigious title.

Another track that I’d like to take a closer look at is Basic Space, track number 8. Out of these three tracks, this one utilises the power of that male-female singers format, both regarding lyric and harmony.

“I’m setting us in stone
Piece by piece before I’m alone
Air tight before we break
Keep it in, keep us safe”

It’s where they team up to talk about unity, and fear of losing each other. They want to be in a fool-proof, indestructible relationship; the song having that focus of what they strive for in each other in their relationships makes it more of a ballad, unlike Shelter where the focus is on what they do not have.

If you have a minute, take a look at the band performing Islands on Later with Jules Holland.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s