The xx - Angels

This is very obviously intended for the intimacy of the bedroom rather than the heat of the club.

Normal practice for a band returning with their second album is to come back with a barnstorming single ramping up the sound of the debut while also making a play for a bigger and wider audience. The xx have long established that they are no normal band and grand statements are very much not their style. The xx’s return sounds just as you would imagine an xx track to sound. Understated, dark and elusive yet full of hope.

‘Angels’ is an impossibly beautiful hushed lullaby. A soulful and plaintive ballad about the crushing emotional intensity that characterises being so deeply in love, it is traditional torch song given a unique xx twist. The guitar sound is typical of many of those that graced the first album but this time around it provides the backdrop to Romy Madley-Croft’s wonderfully soulful voice which is pushed very much to the fore. The sparse instrumentation feels almost expendable: ‘Angels’ is very much about the power of the voice.

There is a self assurance that wasn’t quite present anywhere on the debut, the lyrics are simple and direct and are all the more powerful for it, Madley-Croft’s sigh of “Being in love with you, as I am” proving particularly touching before it just tapers off into a hushed refrain of the word ‘love.”

Jamie Smith’s production is as poised as ever but his skittering beats are very much in the background, occasionally faintly threatening to reach a crescendo but never quite getting there. The much trumpeted dance floor influences may yet be present on the album but this is very obviously intended for the intimacy of the bedroom rather than the heat of the club.

‘Angels’ retains all the aspects of The xx’s sound that make them so very special but offers up evidence that forthcoming second album ‘Coexist’ may be an emotionally richer and deeper work from a band who seem to be at the very peak of their powers.

Tags: The xx, Reviews

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