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the xx - Coexist
So, the long awaited second album from London's young vanguards The xx finally drops, and the world no doubt lies in wait desperate to pick holes in it. It would have been easy for them to have emerged from the dark with ten tracks repeating the same formula that had them fashioned into hip patches on Rihanna and Drake's back catalogue (among others), but maybe it was too easy for a band who patently still regard the album process as important. 'Coexist' is a 'proper' long player first and foremost, probably to the point where it runs the risk of alienating Youtube listeners who just want odd tracks to listen to again and again until the next big hype crawls out of the smelting chamber. People listen differently in 2012, but it hasn't stopped The xx forging a divisively coherent record of restraint and subtlety that lives and dies in it working as one solid unit. The sparseness in the band's production has always been a pervading element, and it's something Jamie xx has shone even more light on in his own solo tracks, but here the productions are more than just a statement of intent, they're a perfect representation of minimalist pop. While very rarely instant (save for maybe opener 'Angels'), the lack of gloss and fat in the songwriting and instrumentation gives them an air of mystery and longevity that so many 'big' albums have sorely been missing recently. On a second or third runthrough the album slowly begins to unravel and make sense, with small, carefully crafted riffs digging into your subconscious - just like all great songs should. Somehow the band have managed to fuse the melancholy, post millennial R&B of Drake and The Weeknd, the nostalgic sizzle of garage pop and deliriously beautiful slowcore of Low and emerged victorious with an articulate, confident whole.