Music: Have The xx Beaten Second Album Syndrome?

In 2009, The xx stormed into the view of the mainstream with their debut album xx. It won the Mercury Prize, reached platinum sales in the UK, and has sound tracked your TV advertisements and montages ever since. In short, it was a bit of a classic. This was all well and good until us music-hungry fans began wanting a follow-up.

Three years later, The xx have released their second album, Coexist. The album opens with their lead single, ‘Angels’, which is completely chilling. It’s simple, downbeat and emotionally charged. The vocal hook is barely more than a whisper, and yet it’s so unforgettable. The album continues with their distinctive sound, building swelling layers that fall away to make perfect use of space and quiet. This all sounds awfully familiar. It’s undeniable that they haven’t had a drastic change in sound since their debut, but why fix it if it isn’t broken?

Upon first listening, only a couple of tracks managed to stand out as anything special, but after a few listens, the record starts to stand on its own two feet and reveals a musical depth that the debut lacked. The record’s biggest downfall comes with the lyrics. They’re generally quite simplistic, which is sometimes exactly what the track needs (in ‘Angels’ for example) but more often they appear quite one-dimensional.

When it comes across as so similar to the The xx’s first effort, you can’t help but wonder if it would have done any harm to be slightly more experimental when writing Coexist. On the other hand, no one can complain when it’s so musically vivid with such a strong sense of identity.