The xx Lets the Sunshine In
The xx will be returning in 2017 with their first new album since 2012. As fans anxiously await its release, The New York Times talks with the British band about their matured sound.This article originally appeared on The New York Times
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. It has turned out to be a durable, expandable, widely admired hybrid: dark and arty yet grounded in the pop basics, eager to communicate. The xx has already sold out a week of British theater dates in March, is booked as a headliner at Lollapalooza festivals in Brazil, Chile and Argentina and was welcomed as a guest on “Saturday Night Live” almost immediately after “On Hold” was released in November.
Credit Will Heath/NBC and NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty Images
Cover photo courtesy of Tony Cenicola/The New York Times