Following the release of The xx’s debut album, xx, the band was swarmed with critical acclaim and immense popularity, leading to seemingly endless touring and spots in high-profile music festivals across the globe. After three long years, the band returns with Coexist, a follow-up album destined to be subject to the pressure that follows every young band that emerges with a distinct, mature sound.
In this second album, The xx doesn’t stray far from their idiosyncratic minimalism. The distinction between the band’s stripped-down sound palette and silence remains as important a tool as their instruments. However, The xx simplifies their music further, resulting in an album that lacks the freshness that xx had and at times, becomes dull. Still, that doesn’t seem to be the point of the album. Rather, Coexist aims for cohesiveness, purposely dampening The xx’s pop inclinations. It is an album about love and loss but mostly love lost. The album isn’t completely romantic, nor is it hopelessly depressing. Instead, it is grounded in the messy reality of coexistence — how to deal with and coexist with the challenges and demands of life.
In Coexist, the heavy tension of sounds suspended in space pound at your ears, colliding against the calm submission of guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim’s silken voices. The sounds seem to protest against the ease of their voices, deepening the sorrow as they fall into a hollow existence.
While Coexist isn’t an album meant for dancing, the album’s beautiful simplicity can be therapeutic in its achingly sorrowful and straightforward songs. Conceptually, the album is far above its predecessor. In notes released with the album, Croft explains, “I was reading up on oil on water — when you see a puddle on the floor and it’s a rainbow. Oil and water don’t mix, they agree to peacefully coexist. I really liked that — these two simple things, oil and water, that together make something beautiful… To coexist doesn’t paint the rosiest picture but I think it represents the realness.”