Let’s face it, leaks suck. Whether or not you’re someone that fashions in this illegal form of listening to music or not, leaks create a craving, a longing, and a desire to seek music way before its release date. Sometimes, most can cover it up and say it’s for the better, while others combat it with some kind of free stream or digital release. Whatever it is, it makes listening for those that enjoy waiting (or wait out of respect for the artist and their label’s wishes) a painstaking process.
And now, here it is, The xx’s xx, a simply-titled, simply-wonderful, simply-perfect debut album. In the UK, the album was out for a while and it had time for those listeners to salivate and eat up every piece of its being. It took a while for the Southern London quartet to find a home across the pond, but before any of this could happen you had these rabid fiends uploading and downloading it off file-sharing sites. So damn, excuse me for being a week late with this review as it was everything but planned.
You see, it was requested and received right around when the leaks came as XL made sure to get it in the right hands well before release day. But somehow in this planning, a few of us had forgotten that due to high traffic on illegal copies and many chiming in for the music that the release date had been pushed up. And so it is, while others review the leak just to get their name on it, some won’t even touch it because they wonder if it really needs further attention; some are late when, in literal terms, they were one of the firsts.
Seriously, pardon the interruption but it would be great if we could go back to the days of music listening where everyone heard music around the same time. The xx have made a debut that sounds utterly flawless; it’s the kind of album that bands take years to create. Usually, you have your missteps along the way; heck, even a track that sounds not so promising, even a weak EP through the misfire but xx is anything but. Fully-formed and filled with vivid life, The xx are making the kind of music you live for.
So sit back and just picture what kind of thrill it would be if all of your buddies were able to hear music like this at the same time. You know that feeling where albums like The Score, Rid of Me, Turn on the Bright Lights, et al. were instantaneously loved from the get-go? That’s the kind of remorse I’ve been dealing with. Speaking of Interpol, check out the creeping, nervy guitar that rides the entirety of “Infinity”. It’s a magical feeling when the albums you’ve loved from the beginning of the decade are righteously pouring their influences into many others by now.
Luckily, for us at least, The xx are quietly taking everything in stride. They’ve opened up a set of tour dates that will only garner more attention and even more so, they’ve silently amassed all of their strengths into an exceptional package with only one black-and-white X to wonder about. The growth and culmination on “Islands” sounds like something a seasoned veteran could write. Neatly arranged, trading gorgeous female and male vocal parts and blending everything with touching vocals like “I am yours now so now I don’t ever have to leave”, this is a band with some major chops.
Whether you have the U2-esque opening instrumental of “Intro” with its fluid drums and atmospherics, or even the melodically somber feeling of “Night Time”, there is a definite amount of musicality showered throughout xx. Forget the fact that “Shelter” borrows the same melody from its predecessor, “Fantasy”, to turn the latter into a real-life opportunity, there is just too much to love on here. It almost makes you feel like nothing else matters and that’s just the trick with music: regardless of when you heard it, through each and every single listen it was yours, period. And boy, what a feeling that is when the music is as good as this.