The xx Lets the Sunshine In
New York Times reporter Jon Pareles hones in on The xx's coming of age. Speaking with band member Oliver Sim, Pareles gives readers an idea of what to expect from the upcoming album, the group's first since 2012.This article originally appeared on The New York Times
From left, Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie Smith of the xx, whose new album, “I See You,” is set for a Jan. 13 release. Credit Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
MARFA, Tex. — On a mid-October night, a few dozen people clustered near one end of the Lost Horse Saloon here: a small video crew, some Texas locals and tourists including visitors from New York City like me. Deer heads and skulls gazed down from the walls; a sign announced “Open Mic Night.”
Seated in the tiny stage area were the two singers and lyricists of the xx — Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim — while Jamie Smith (a.k.a. Jamie xx), the band’s programmer, keyboardist and main producer, looked on from nearby. It was the first performance by the xx since 2014, and a Texas saloon made an unlikely comeback locale for a British band whose melancholy songs tend to conjure dark, lonely London flats or very late nights in club chill rooms.
With downcast glances, as Ms. Madley Croft plucked an acoustic guitar, the duo sang the love song “Islands,” from the band’s self-titled 2009 debut album, and the clingy breakup song “On Hold,” the first single from its third album, “I See You,” due on Jan. 13.
A stealthy, out-of-the way return made sense for a band that grew out of whispery songs recorded at home but has gathered a worldwide following. From the beginning, the xx bridged the do-it-yourself-just-for-yourself ethic of indie-rock, the electronic underpinnings of dance music and an intuitive sense of pop songwriting that’s succinct, emotionally open and general enough to feel universal...