Sound — 10
In an age where maximalism rules as the dominant form of emotive expression, this band dares to be different. The sound is extremely minimal. Guitars are used sparingly for simple, melodic lines and the bass is often arranged even more sparsely. There's lots of drum machines and some atmospheric synth sounds, too. The mood is calm, but sometimes unsettlingly so. We are so used to hearing lush arrangements that often, music as empty as this can shock us, as it did to me on my first listen. Over time, though. I grew to love the quiet nature of the album, realizing that The XX can still convey a wide spectrum of emotion with a small sonic palette. Listen to the desperation on "Infinity", the plea for forgiveness on "Shelter", or the calm happiness that is "VCR". It's an old cliche, but this band really proves that less is more.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics deal with a lot of sexual frustration and relationship problems, though not in the traditional sense we've come to expect from a lot of bands dealing with the same subject. The lyrics are direct and to-the-point, with choruses like "Maybe I had said/Something that was wrong, /Can I make it better/With the lights turned on?" and "I can't give it up/To someone else's touch/Because I can't do much." The singers (one male, one female) sound quiet and sometimes lost in the space surrounding the music, which suits the mood perfectly. The best moments on the album are when both singers play off each other, such as the coda at the end of "Infinity", where they repeat their moaning laments over and over: "Give it up...", "I can't give it up..."
Overall Impression — 9
It's becoming more and more prominent in many genres of music: If you feel intense emotions, you're supposed to scream them at the top of your lungs in a swirling of rock guitars and violins. The XX do the opposite of this, stripping away the unnecessary bells and whistles often added where they are not needed. They leave us with a sound that is clean, but not sterile, quiet, but not boring. It may be a little difficult to get into, as the sound is very different from most of what you might have heard before, but it grows on you after a while and really ingrains itself in your consciousness. I recommend that everyone go check them out, regardless of what genre of music you normally listen to.