Electronic music has its place: there are lyrical and atmospheric worlds which do not mesh so well with the genre. For proof of this one need look no further than the opening track of Passion Pit’s recent album Gossamer. “Take A Walk” is a commentary on soldiers going to serve overseas, and while the song is almost stultifyingly catchy, the mixture just doesn’t work. For contrast, examine “Angels”, the heavenly opener to Coexist, the second album from British electronic funkmeisters The XX, released Sep. 10. The song takes as its subject the longing between two lovers, and the result could not be smoother: a chilling, perfectly paced song that will rank among the best of the year.
The band’s debut album, called simply xx, received tremendous critical appraise, but lacked a certain clarity, the sort of vibrance that makes music lasting; at times the album could simply lull one to sleep because there was no element which took the fore. The window-pane has been wiped clean with Coexist, a seamless tapestry of smooth songs that sparkle in ways most of the group’s first album never could. After “Angels”, the songs slide by in a special sort of trance, the sort of trance that demands attention — the ethereal lyrics on “Fiction” and the gapless synth lines on the “Sunset” and “Missing” don’t fade into the background like the middling tracks on xx did. It seems that every element of the band’s soundscape has been refined, to the vast improvement of the whole.
Critics loved xx in spite of (or perhaps because of, depending upon how much you value the undifferentiated trance-aesthetic of the XX’s music) the fact that most of the songs had a lot in common. I cannot honestly say that Coexist is the most varied album on earth, but nor can I say that I want that. There is a certain, shall we say, thematic coexistence to all the songs. The spare songwriting on the group’s past album explored the same themes of love and longing as Coexist does, but on Coexist the songs really feel like they’re about love, especially the agonizing “Our Song”, which closes out the roster.
Once comparisons to past efforts are over with, though, there is really only one thing to be said about Coexist by its own merits: it’s simply really good music. Regardless of whether or not songs like “Unfold”, which is hidden somewhere in the middle of the pack, will stand the test of time, the album is an indispensable chunk of no-holds-barred sensual groove, an emotional dissection that showcases electronic music where it should be. If the synths don’t infest your heart, you’re not listening closely enough. Score: 8/10.
Jake Bittle / Arts & Entertainment Editor