Posts Tagged ‘The xx’

British trio The xx formed back in 2005, and first came onto the scene in 2009 with their debut album, xx. Romy Madley Croft provides vocals and guitar; Oliver Sim, vocals and bass; Jamie Smith, beats and production. They followed up with 2012’s sublime, Coexist, and most recently 2016’s work of art, I See You. Here’s why you need them in your life.

The Sound: It’s subtle, nuanced, echoing each and every feeling they express, without being distracting. It perfectly sets up the mood for each track, knowing when to quiet down, and when to pick things up. It’s so meticulously and purposefully placed in each track, such that each note, each strum, each pluck of a string, each inflection, each beat has a specific place in the song; nothing is superfluous. It doesn’t fit in any particular genre, having flecks of indie rock and dance; hints of pop and electronic; plenty of confessional tones. The beats, guitar and bass shimmer so brightly together, the resulting music comes off in such a way that, no other version of the song will ever make sense. Their sound is incomparable, inimitable, and frankly deserves to be a genre all on its own.

The Lyrics: One thing to note about The xx, you can’t just have them on in the background. You have to listen to them, and you’ll thank me because what you’ll hear will take you to a place you’ve never been before. You’ll find yourself deep in thought, ruminating over some life event in ways you never have. Each word, each phrase, is so well thought out. Every syllable is in there for a reason, and has a role to play in unfolding the inner workings of Croft and Sim’s minds. They know exactly what to say, and how to say it, and only say what’s necessary to convey their mood; nothing more, nothing less. Like true poets.

The Vocals. There’s nothing outwardly spectacular about their vocals; they don’t do runs, they’re not power houses, they don’t show anything off. They exude just the right amount of force when singing, perfectly exercising control, and not getting carried away. They can be haunting, moving, playful, emotional, thoughtful, on the verge of tears, confident, confused, and everything else you can imagine. They’re honest and vulnerable, and sometimes a total mess on the inside – and it all translates perfectly through their delivery.

The Albums. When you combine their sound, their lyrics and their vocals, this is what you get: a masterpiece that grabs your soul and breaks it apart piece by piece, leaving you empty and broken inside. Then out of nowhere, breathes life right back into you, reviving your soul and making you feel things far beyond what you ever thought possible. I’m not being hyperbolic, they’re just that good. It’s not just a one-off either. Each of their albums is unique in its own way, but still manages to evoke the same senses. If you’ve never seen them live, please do – it’s an experience you’ll  never forget.

 

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We’ve all been there, it’s happened to each and everyone of us: the good old heartbreak. Whether from a significant other, a family member, even a friend, we’ve all been down the treacherous self-loathing path of why is this happening to me? I’m the misery-likes-company type of person, so when I’m down in the dumps, I need some friends to help me feel it all; here are some I’ve found along the way. (Note: in an attempt to broaden horizons, I’ve distanced this list from well-known artists, so don’t freak out.)

10. “I Hope Your Heart Runs Empty” by Neverending White Lights feat. Scott Anderson

Okay, so this track dates quite a few years back, but still has a way of getting under my skin. NWL is actually a one-man band of Daniel Victor who writes, performs and produces all his music, then gets quasi-known singers to provide vocals. In this case it’s Canadian punk band Finger Eleven’s lead singer. He has such a harrowing voice, it just crawls all over you.

Best line: “Stole a look away from your eyes, stole a look and finally paid your price”

9. “Cup of Coffee” by Garbage

Although it’s one of the lesser known tracks from this fantastic rock band, it’s also one of their most moving ones. It’s frustrating and angering, and so disheartening. Shirley Manson’s voice is heavy but tender; the music is both harsh and eerie. When someone ends things with you and you feel blindsided, this is probably how you’d feel.

Best line: “It took a cup of coffee, to prove that you don’t love me”

8. “Run” by Snow Patrol

From the initial guitar hook, to the aura of defeated in the vocals, this track had me instantly. This band has put out a lot of great tracks, but this one just has something special about it. It’s tragic, but it’s also heartfelt. It’s about two people who need to separate (geographically, it seems) and are having a tough time with it. Who can’t relate to what’s happening here?

Best line: “To think I might not see those eyes, it makes it so hard not to cry”

7. “Walk Away” by Ben Harper

The classic tale of knowing when to let go, even if you’re not ready to. If a relationship has ended due to circumstances or timing (and not because the love has faded), this is your jam. Harper has this insanely telling voice, full of so much expression and each and every intonation possible. His words cut deep, hit hard and make you want to cry all over. It’s a true lesson in doing the right thing, even though it hurts. A lot.

Best line: “But I would rather be locked to you, than live in this pain and misery”

6. “Personal” by Stars

One of the best ways to truly depict troubles in a relationship is to use both male and female vocals. You get to see/hear both sides of the story and feel even more immersed in the emotions. This track actually makes you feel like you got punched in the gut. Girl likes online version of boy, boy likes online version of girl. They decide to meet in person, but one of them decides they don’t like the real-version of the other. It shatters your heart in so many ways, addressing all our insecurities and how we think others see us.

Best line: “I was sure you saw me, but it wasn’t meant to be”

 

5. “Lost & Found” by Lianne La Havas

Lianne La Havas needs more credit: she’s phenomenal. She’s part R&B, part singer-songwriter and all soul. There’s a bit of a naiveté and innocence to her voice, which makes her sound even more relevant. It’s like she’s experiencing all these things for the first time. She’s exploring the world and finding out that sometimes it’s painful and it sucks and it’s confusing. This tune is part introspection, part crushing, and all therapy.

Best line: “You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself”

4. “Angels” by The xx

The xx are one of those bands that understand music and sounds so incredibly well, they know exactly how to bring all elements of a song – instruments, vocals, production – in perfect harmony, so that the track is felt from every direction. When Romy isn’t singing, the instruments and music do it for her, taking the listener on a continuous journey. This track is all about finding that elusive connection we all seek, and how overwhelming it can be we it’s found.

Best line: “You move through the room, like breathing was easy”

3. “9 Crimes” by Damien Rice

Damien Rice has such a delicately refined voice, able to hit all the lows and reach all the highs. What makes this track so engaging is it’s hard to know exactly what’s going on. It’s dramatic and heavy and ominous. There seems to be some sort of adulterous situation going on, there are guns involved, and the male and female vocals both talk about bad timing and being horrible people. I have yet to identify 9 actual crimes, but man, this is a good one.

Best line: “Leave me out with the waste, this is not what I do”

2. “About Today” by The National 

I’ve written/spoken about this track time and time again. It should be a staple go-to track in everyone’s life. It’s one of the most real and honest tracks about the dissolution of a relationship. It’s awkward and tense, and you feel the constant knot in your stomach growing and growing, until you find yourself audibly sighing, because you know where this is headed. It even sounds like the violins are crying. If you don’t find yourself crawled up in the a fetal position by the end of it, you have no soul.

Best line: “You just walked away, and I just watched you; what could I say?”

1. “Poison & Wine” by The Civil Wars

This song pulls at each and every heart string one by one, and letting every single one echo for what seems like eons. It’s so full of pain and hurt and despair. It’s melancholic but folky, and sung with so much precision and sadness, you can’t help but feel all the dread in the air. This couple is on 2 completely different pages, and take turns expressing their inner monologue. Every line is full of contradictions, just like so many relationships. Ugh.

Best line: “I don’t have a choice but I’d still choose you” 

I started this blog nearly 5 years ago, with the intention of educating people on new music,and exposing them to sounds they may never have heard otherwise. The idea was to diversify, explore, get to know other perspectives; expand our minds so our thoughts don’t get stunted. I jumped into this full force, afraid that too many people were settling for only what was put in front of them. I wanted to show that it’s okay to be critical about music, and to demand better quality.

Music isn’t as polarizing as it used to be, and now more than ever, it has found a way to come together. Rap mixes with rock; hip-hop with country. It’s all over the place, and just goes to show that music really is just one sound interpreted in different ways, different styles. Musicians are more open, more accepting, more willing to experiment. They understand that working together is more effective than apart. I, too, have learned the same thing. As much as I have criticized a lot of music out there, I’ve realized there’s a time and place for everything. Moreover, music is incredibly subjective – there is no wrong answer (unless you’re a Chris Brown fan.)

One of the benefits of writing this blog, is not only myself learning about new music, but also figuring out how to explain it to people. Why I like/dislike a certain track/artist. Why one sound resonates with me more than another. It helps me organize my thoughts, form opinions not solely based on subjectivity, but also backed by facts. It’s a way for me to express myself, and it gives me a voice. Now I write this blog as much for myself as I do for others.

I’ve always been a music fans for all kinds of reasons, and writing about it is something I can’t stop doing. It’s become this obsessive passion, that I need to fuel whenever I can. That intense need, or desire, to put my trains of thought on paper, eventually led me to put together and publish my first book: Stan’s Jams. It revolves around music and how it plays a role in anyone’s life. It draws on the universality of music, and was inspired by how I feel about music.

Scan Jan 2, 2015, 11_05 PM

The response to this project has been overwhelming. Never would I have imagined that so much positivity and enthusiasm could have come from this; people I barely know, excited to read what I wrote. People paying money to read what I wrote. People enjoying what I wrote.

When you create something out of love and passion, it shows. People can feel that beautiful energy and respond to it; I have to admit, it’s quite humbling. I didn’t write this book for fame and fortune; I did it for me, for music, and for anyone else who understands its importance. For those who have encouraged, supported and helped, I thank you a million times over.

What’s next? My goal is continue to write this blog, regardless of how many people actually read it. I want to continue to write about what interests you, so I’m always open to suggestions, comments, etc. I also plan to start a series called “My Date With” in which I deeply examine a past musician’s work and share my thoughts on it. Someone who I never really got around to listening to when they were big, and so will play catch up by immersing myself in their music. Stay tuned for that.

In the meantime: