The xx

The xx Book Intimate NYC Residency in March

The xx Book Intimate NYC Residency in March

The xx have just announced that they’re planning to play a run of 25 intimate shows for just 40 people at a time in New York City. I know, I know. That is really intimate. Like, insanely intimate. Like, the word ‘intimate’ doesn’t seem to cover how intimate these intimate shows are going to be.

The gigs will take place at Park Avenue Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall in Manhattan, New York from March 19th-29th, 2014. Two shows will take place every night, with three on the weekend dates, or so says The Line Of Best Fit.

A press statement about the shows says the gigs will be “uniquely voyeuristic and deeply personal”.

It says,  ”Defying perceptions of a traditional concert, The xx creates a site-specific environment to delve into uncharted levels of depth in their sound where dark and light collide as the memory of the outside world falls away. This uniquely voyeuristic and deeply personal setting is the perfect oasis for the band to perform, while in the process redefining their music and their relationship to the audience that surrounds them.”

The xx have had a relatively quiet 2013. Last month, they issued a statement saying they “unconditionally” supported (and presumably, still do) the right to equal marriage after a Croatian anti-gay marriage pressure group used one of their songs  in an online advert without permission of the band.

“It has come to our attention that our music has been used without our permission in a promotional advert by the Croatian organisation “U ime obitelji”,” the statement posted on the band’s Facebook page read. “We wish to state that we didn’t, and would never, approve the use of our music by this organisation. To be clear, we unconditionally support the equal right to marriage regardless of sexuality.” The advert has now been taken down.

Speaking more musically, the band recently released special vinyl boxsets of their two albums, with each set being limited to a run of 1000 copies. Every track on the band’s 2009 self-titled debut and 2012′s Coexist album has been pressed onto seven-inch vinyl and packaged into two limited edition boxsets with individual artwork for each record, so have been designed with xx and beautiful object-lovers in mind. Who doesn’t love a beautiful object, eh?

The xx Extend World Tour into 2013

The xx Extend World Tour into 2013

The xx have announced make-up dates for two concerts cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy. As an added bonus, the band has also released a slew of new concerts for next year.

The group was forced to cancel shows in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York, and concerts for the first two of those cities have been rescheduled during the new North American leg of the band’s tour early next year. A rescheduled New York date will be announced soon.

The new Philadelphia date will kick off the tour on January 27, 2013 at the Electric Factory, and the Baltimore gig will be held at Ram’s Head Live! the following night. The trek is then scheduled to run through a February 17 show at the Rialto Theatre in Tucson. In between, the band will also hit cities including Nashville, Atlanta, Miami Beach, Tampa, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas.

“As promised, we’re pleased to announce the rescheduled Philly and Baltimore dates that we had to cancel, and also a lot more shows next year!” the band wrote in a statement. “The rescheduled shows will honor all tickets for the cancelled shows. If you have questions about the specific ticket policies you should please contact the venues directly… Details of a rescheduled New York date to come very soon.”

The tour will continue to support the English trio’s sophomore album, Coexist, which was released in September. The album peaked at the number one position on the UK albums chart, and debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 albums chart in the US.

Coexist is the group’s first record since their self-titled debut was released in 2009. In between, band member Jamie Smith (also known as Jamie xx) has kept busy as a producer. In that role he has worked with Drake and remixed songs by Radiohead, Adele and Florence and the Machine.

Album Review: The xx ‘Coexist’

Album Review: The xx ‘Coexist’

The xx gained a little bit of notoriety leading up to the release of Coexist by first streaming the album from their own website, with a map to show the way that the music spread over the Internet and the world. A nifty idea, albeit the map really just showed a nuclear explosion of lines radiating from a Reddit post, but in either case the music has to hold up to the hype.

“Angels” opens the album with echoing, airy guitar, which is a sound you”re going to want to get used to. This is the only song on which Romy Madley Croft truly takes the lead vocal, although she is heavily featured throughout the record, and her voice is absolutely gorgeous. She has a very simple, strong style of singing, perfectly matching a nude and vulnerable love song.

Oliver Sim takes the lead on the second track, “Chained”, and while he can”t quite match the emotional presence of Croft here, he does a totally passable job of singing over watery indie ambiance. The beat here really stands out, layered and sharp.

Beyond that, you may do just as well to start the record over and loop those two songs ad infinitum. Coexist suffers from a total lack of maneuverability, perhaps moreso than any other album I”ve heard in the past few years. We get the one-two punch of both singers featured right off the top, but the music is largely the same, and it only blends together more as we press on.

Which is interesting, because the songs themselves do have the ability to shift and change shape. Any single track from this album could be picked out and featured quite strongly, but there is nothing to set one song apart from the next. If this is meant to be an ambient record played in the background at the spa, it”s a bit clunky, and if it”s meant to be an indie pop album– which it is– it seems stagnant.

“Fiction” features the very same echoing, airy guitar, and “Try” even uses the same riff as its lead-in. “Reunion” tries to evolve towards the end, but it”s really just transitioning into “Sunset”, which is a thoroughly boring song, and both can again be described as showcases of echoing, airy guitar.

Another thing all of these tracks have in common is one-word titles, which seems to be the mark of young, inexperienced bands wanting to be arty. That feels like a strong possibility here, but The xx should not be underestimated. To envision and execute a cohesive album that offers one consistent feeling throughout is valid and worthy. It just isn”t exactly captivating once you get a few songs into it.

There are a few highlights, but they are fleeting, and I feel like we are now grading on a curve. Croft”s backing vocal on “Missing” is gorgeous once again, and “Tides” opens with a stunning a cappella which really exemplifies how will Sim and Croft”s voices work together, but it moves too quickly right back into echoing, airy guitar.

The only song to really seem to stand out is “Swept Away”, which also happens to be the first track with a two-word title. It”s only slightly more interesting when you take it apart and judge its components, but it really shifts in the end to feature a strong, club beat.

The xx have relied here on a very shallow bag of tricks, and the result is an album that is, to my ear, inexcusably unadventurous. They have a strong musicality and an understanding of how to evoke emotion through sound with surgical precision, but it is evident that they are only interested in treating one ailment, or maybe that”s all they”ve been trained for.

Release Date: September 11, 2012
Image Courtesy of Young Turks

Stream Bob Dylan ‘Tempest,’ The xx ‘Coexist’

Stream Bob Dylan ‘Tempest,’ The xx ‘Coexist’

These days most of us are 21st century digital boys and girls, and as album leaks are pretty much a given at this point rather than a fear, many record labels have taken an almost “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach. This means letting the fans have what they want. Early and legally through streaming sites.

Bob Dylan and the xx are the latest artists to let their fans get a taste of upcoming music before it is officially released. Both have new records coming out next Tuesday (Tempest for Dylan, Coexist for the xx), and both have released the entirety of their new albums for fans to stream as often as they’d like.

Dylan is using iTunes to stream his 35th (!) studio album. Clocking in at over an hour, a good portion of the record is taken up by its title track, which is just under 14 minutes long and explores the sinking of the Titanic.

A blog post on the L.A. Times last week focuses only this track, and calls it “one of the most extraordinary compositions from the most acclaimed songwriter of the rock era.” The blog also provides a clearer picture of the song.

“For ‘Tempest,’ he’s conjured up an Irish-Celtic waltz feel as he chronicles this oft-told tale, in a voice as tattered as a shattered china cup, across 45 verses with no chorus.” I’m not one to throw around exclamation points, but I think a second one of the post could be justified for use after the number 45.

Apparently the song isn’t only historical, as it also name-checks “Leo” from the 1997 film depiction of the sinking ship.

The xx debuted their sophomore album on NPR’s First Listen, which consistently provides previews of the best new albums (recent examples include Cat Power, the Avett Brothers and Animal Collective).

“The London band invests these 11 songs with real, bruised emotion, whether Romy Madley Croft is exposing her lovesick nerves in ‘Angels’ or she and Oliver Sim are exuding wounded regret in ‘Sunset,’” states the write up for the album. The review concludes that the songs are “delicately crafted so that every softly ringing note, and every aching second of dead air, hits like a cymbal crash.”

The xx Tack Brief North American Leg onto Summer Tour

The xx Tack Brief North American Leg onto Summer Tour

Though British electronic group the xx had a fairly extensive world tour lined up for later this year, they did not have any North American dates scheduled. Fortunately for fans on the continent, the band has now changed this.

In the midst of the world tour, the band will visit five major markets in North America, beginning July 23 with a show at the Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. The leg of the tour will run through August 2 when the group appears at Terminal 5 in New York City. The other cities the band will visit during the trek are Seattle, Toronto, Montreal and Boston.

The band is scheduled to spend the rest of this month and much of June and July playing festivals in Europe, and in between those dates will appear once in Japan on July 4. After the shows on this side of the Atlantic, the group will head back to Europe for more festival dates that are scheduled to run through the Bestival Festival, which will be held on the Isle of Wight on September 7.

Thus far, the band has only released one record, a self-titled debut that was released in 2009 and went on to win the Mercury Prize the following year. Group member Jamie Smith mentioned late last year that the band may issue their long-awaited sophomore album this year, ahead of the festival season. And though the extensive tour schedule might suggest the album will in fact be released, no official announcement has yet been made.

In between albums, Smith has been keeping busy as a producer. He produced Drake’s hit “Take Care,” which featured Rihanna. He also has worked on several remixes of artists including Adele and Gil Scott-Heron and had a remix featured on Radiohead’s remix album TKOL RMX1234567.