If what you were looking for was an extension of the album you fell in love with three years ago, there will be no disappointment.
the xx – Coexist
Being a musician is tough work. The hours might trounce the average nine to five, but not having a steady paycheck and life on the road can really ware on a person. Then there is the whole musical, artistic aspect of the trade. Not only do you have to create something that you are proud of personally, but you are constantly held to the whims and desires of fans and critics. Critics by their nature will always demand something new and inventive, like the pestering college professor with unrealistic expectations. Fans, on the other hand, will only love you for what you did before and often detest anything that is out of their comfort zone. “You win some, you lose some,” the saying goes. Yet in the world of a musician, there is seldom a winning record.
With their sophomore album, Coexist, the xx seeks to strike the perfect balance between those two dipolar expectations. After their debut in 2009, the xx left the world convinced that after all these years we had been missing something – the sparse, haunting sexiness found on their first album xx. Three years later, Coexist is a pleasant public service announcement reminding us of that. The vocals of Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim compliment the raw lyrics effortlessly. Juxtaposed with the dubstep beats of Jamie xx née Smith, the album is beautiful in its limitedness. If what you were looking for was an extension of the album you fell in love with three years ago, there will be no disappointment. If anything, Coexist is even more polished and refined, the perfection of an accomplished oeuvre.
However in that, there is still an emptiness to be found. Coexist is almost indistinguishable from xx, and it leaves you with an unfulfilling feeling. It is almost as if the xx is playing it safe, hesitant to deviate too far from the norm and push their limits. There are plenty of clichés that your grandfather or a self-help book could interject here about failure, mediocrity, and success. But I feel the band summed it up best themselves in the track “Sunset.” “I always thought it was a shame,” croons Madley-Croft, “that we have to play these games / It felt like you really knew me / Now it feels like you see through me.” Heartache is not exclusive to the world of lovers and sweethearts, it plagues musicians and their audience as well. That is the bittersweet splendor of it all.