The xx opens up and pulls you in
MANILA, Philippines – The xx: We are so excited to come back to your beautiful country. We had so much fun, we had so much energy last time.
This was the message of British indie pop band, The xx, to fans in the Philippines. The band’s last show in the country was in 2013. It was indeed full of energy – from fans that filled the NBC tent regardless of the soaring ticket prices just to listen to the band perform "Crystalised," "VCR," and "Angels" – among its other hits – live.
That boundless exuberance might be part of the reason why Oliver Sim (bass guitar and vocals), Jamie Smith a.k.a Jamie xx (beats, MPC, synths, drums, keys, record production) and Romy Madley Croft (guitar, vocals) are returning to Manila for those once-in-a-blue-blood-moon shows, or it might just be because the band is again on tour to promote a new album.
I See You, the band’s third studio album, was released in 2017, 5 years after Coexist. It contains 10 tracks and still carries the band’s signature sound: minimalist, dreamy, and electronic, but brimming with profound lyricism. One who is used to listening to music that's hard and heavy might not appreciate or even understand what The xx is doing; one might look for a abashedly climactic turn and feel confused with the unabashedly serene quality to The xx’s music, and the invigorating effect it has on one who listens intently.
Less is more sometimes, and more often than not, Croft’s effervescent vocals harmonizing with Sim’s, and floating together over a beguiling guitar riff, a throbbing bass line and Smiths’ fluid beats are more than enough.
While The xx’s distinct aesthetic – that stark minimalism – shows up again in I See You, it’s also evident that the band tried to do things a little differently for its latest album.
Croft admitted in an interview that pushing themselves to come up with something different was quite possibly one of the biggest challenges they’ve gotten into. The results, however, were rewarding, and people loved the music as well.
I See You has been listed as one of the best albums of 2017 in music charts all over.
"On Hold," the lead single, is a lot more upbeat and pop chart-friendly, and even contains instrumental samples from Hall & Oates’ "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)." The song was produced by Smith and Scottish music producer Rodaidh McDonald, a frequent collaborator.
"I Dare You" is yet another engaging track from the new album. It’s another of the catchier, more danceable tracks. The music video, which stars arguably every Netflix subscriber’s favorite teen star of the moment, Millie Bobby Brown, is just a plus.
The band was formed in 2005, and is considered one of the more seasoned ones by today’s standards, with music acts sprouting left and right. The xx’s members have strived to innovate through their music, and have likewise made an effort to catch up with current norms. And one of these norms is social media.
Croft admits that they were hesitant to engage with their fans through social media at first.
She explains, “We were very shy. And I always quite enjoy the mystery. I quite enjoyed the fact that we kinda didn't tell everyone everything,” she said.
However, they learned to appreciate what social media could do for them and their fans.
“I got more confidence and I really realized that actually connecting with fans and sharing more of us and our friendship may help us to have a deeper connection with our audience. And so we are now very active. It's something that I really enjoy doing and we already appreciate it,” said Croft.
The xx has withstood the test of time, so to speak. It’s a thirteen-year-old band that continues to flourish and create good music. The secret however, isn’t in just the lyrics, the instruments, or the music itself; something else keeps The xx together.
“Friendship. It's really friendship,” Croft shares. “Before anything else I think you know, we've been best friends for a long time. And sometimes we're feeling distant from each other as friends and we have some time in between from each other. It's challenging.”
“It's important to have our independent lives but you know, we're all like family. It's a relationship. We give each other love and care. I think we'll all be doing that, still.”
The xx will perform at the World Trade Center on Wednesday, February 7. Tickets to The xx I See You Manila 2018 are available through Ticketnet or at Astroplus branches. – Rappler.com