The XX, XX (Young Turks, 2009)

The XX are a London-based group consisting of Romy Madley Croft (vocals and guitar), Oliver Sim (vocals and bass), and Jamie Smith (programming). Their debut CD XX was recorded with a fourth member, Baria Quereshi, on guitar and keyboards. Their unusual arrangements combine vocal duets with minimalist instrumentation evocative of The Velvet Underground for a generally sparse, but emotive, ambience.

While XX received a good deal of favorable critical response for its originality, I felt that the album lacked sufficient quality material to hold up to the scrutiny that comes with multiple listens. In other words, a few songs grabbed my attention initially, but nothing really held it for long. Even the strongest track on the album, "Infinity," suffers from being derivative -- the Bm-A-E chord progression and the heavily echoed guitar come straight from Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." Having said that, there is something unique and intriguing about their sound. The light, simple playing fits the mood of the songs well, and the ability and willingness of Croft and Sim to share the spotlight equally bodes well for long-term collaborations.

I do think that The XX have a few good musical ideas, and they'll almost certainly have plenty of opportunities to develop them further. A number of music publications jumped the gun in naming XX the best album of 2009, though. The songwriting just wasn't memorable enough to warrant that kind of distinction.

Overall grade: B-

reviewed by Scott


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