It's a killer. A band struggles to get noticed. It always seems to take longer than it should. And when it does arrive something goes amiss.
In this case it was xx's self-titled '09 set which got reviewed by Rolling Stone magazine, who give it four stars (out of a possible five). The band was on the rise. Right? Not so fast.
Shortly after the album's release, guitarist Baria Qureshi left the group citing exhaustion. The remaining members (Romy Madley Croft - vocals; Oliver Sim - bassist/vocals; and Jamie Smith - drums/loops/keyboards) played a scheduled London show but not without some trepidation. "Obviously this has been a really tough few days for us," Sim told the audience. "This is the first time we've played as a three piece."
"It's devastating not having Baria here with us, but you all being here has made us feel better," Sim continued. As a result, the group was forced to cancel/postpone some European shows.
Still, "xx" spent eighty-seven weeks on the British Albums Chart and sold over 400,000 copies in the U.K. "xx" topped The Guardian's '09 Top 50 Critics Poll. The album sat at #2 on NME's '09 Albums of the Year poll (behind The Horrors' "Primary Colours") while Pitchfork Media listed it as the third best album of the year (Dirty Projectors' "Bitte Orca" was #2 and Animal Collective's "Merriweather Post Pavilion" topped that list).
"xx" did win the '10 Barclaycard Mercury Prize, the annual music award for the best album from the United Kingdom and Ireland. As a result, album sales jumped dramatically. But despite being nominated for 'Best British Album', 'Best British Breakthrough' and 'Best British Band' at the '11 BRIT Awards, they failed to take home a trophy.
"We've all come back off tour and been partying a bit more," Smith noted as the band was recording their sophomore set. "We left when we were 17 and we missed out on that chunk of our lives when everyone else was partying. Club music has definitely had an influence on the next record."
"Coexist" dropped in '12.
It would be a while before they would return with a new album though they were pretty good at proving updates.
Mid-way through '14, xx stated they were working on their third studio album in Texas. But a year later, it was Smith's solo debut album, not an xx set, that dropped. Smith (aka Jamie xx) did offer that "In Colour" "has definitely informed what we're doing for the next (xx) album." In '16, xx vowed they would have new music "before the holidays." That sort of happened.
There was a November appearance on Saturday Night Live where xx performed "On Hold," which sampled Hall and Oates' '81 hit "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" and "I Dare You" to promote their early '17 set "I See You."
"I See You," xx's third studio album, was their first release in more than four years. They felt the record had a more distinctive sound and a more positive, open and "expansive" concept than the previous two albums.
2017 I See You
"xx" has a sparse sound augmented effectively by the vocal interplay between Croft and Sim. It's less of a duet than a conversation. Many of the songs are low-key with a muted yet pulsating beat - sophisticated synth pop with an occasional New Age twist.