The 2009 self-titled debut from British electro-pop trio The XX hit the music world like a gut-punch. Its combination of sparse, clean guitar lines and electronic beats filled in by oceans of reverb created a sound as dark and intimate as a secret whispered between friends.
The band's second album, Coexist, dropped Sept. 11. And those who liked the debut will likely find little to quibble with, primarily because it is nearly indistinguishable from the band's debut.
Coexist opens with a haunting two-note guitar line that leads to a washed-out march from a dreamy snare drum and a lover's lament that others cannot understand the depth of her feeling. It is an emotional gravity well, drawing the listener down into its melancholy vibe.
From there, it picks up a bit, tossing in snatches of steel drum or peppier tones that balance the dreamy ring of the guitar and the back-and-forth vocal murmurs. "Tides," the eighth track, has a thumping hip-hop kick, and "Swept Away" is almost a dance track, with a peppy disco beat behind the luscious vocals. The album closes with "Our Song," a smooth, drumless outro that eases the listener out the door like a goodnight kiss.
Second albums can be a band's best, once It has established itself and had a chance to grow but not yet sucked the creative well dry. But those same albums also can languish on the charts with a sound that feels a little stale the second time around.
Time may prove Coexist a better album than The XX's first, especially as the lyrics are more mature and the flow of the album slightly more balanced. But the thing about time is that it takes time.