Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The XX

The XX
The XX
9 out of 10

Sometimes hype is just that, hype. It overwhelms and creates such unreal expectations that once a first album is released it can crush even the most steely of resolves. There are long lists of bands that failed under the hype machines, never to be heard from again. Rarely a band warrants the hype and even transcends it. The XX are such a band. For such a young band, all are barely of drinking age, they are supremely confident and fully realized. Forming in high school, band members Romy Madley Croft, Oliver Sim, Baria Qureshi, and Jamie Smith cite influences as disparate as Aliyiah, Pixies, and the Cure. Singers Croft and Sim echo and pull between each other like lovers involved in an intimate, private conversation. Their voices barely rise above a whisper and it feels like the listener has stumbled upon secrets not meant to be overheard.

Signature song "Basic Space" highlights the strengths of this brilliant band. The beats are subtle and enveloping, the guitars delicate and haunting. The voices, a conversation between two lovers, too frightened by the intense physicality of their relationship:

"I'll take you in pieces
We can take it all apart
I've suffered shipwrecks right from the start
I've been underwater, breathing out and in
I think I'm losing where you end and I begin"

The songs are so personal, it is almost painful to listen to. "Crystalized" depicts a relationship where one lover feels they are treated too much as a sexual object and not a real person:

"You've applied the pressure
to have me crystalised
And you've got the faith
That I could bring paradise

I'll forgive and forget
Before I'm paralyzed
Do I have to keep up the pace
To keep you satisfied"

The cd is masterfully paced with the two ends of duets bridged by solo vocal performances from the two singers. Each focusing on internal thoughts and feelings:

"Shelter" is probably my favorite song on the cd. Croft's voice conveys such wounded emotion.

"I find shelter, in this way
Under cover, hide away
Can you hear, when I say?
I have never felt this way

Maybe I had said, something that was wrong
Can I make it better, with the lights turned on"

Most of the songs are minimal and hushed, but every so often, the band ups the beat quotient. I can easy see a song like "Heart Skipped A Beat" given a wicked remix treatment:

The XX do not create music that hits you over the head or stands out in a crowded room. It takes repeated listens to understand what they are doing, but they have so much control for such a young band, it is transcendent. The XX is definitely worth the effort to get to know. A top ten cd of the year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Non Sequiturs

Had a really fun weekend. Went to Mary's in East Atlanta on Friday night for the quarterly Manshaft party. This quarter's fetish was military. I should have worn my camo cargo pants but completely forgot about them and basically worn my usual t-shirt and jeans. The party was fun, but it was a lot more subdued due to the recent raid at the Atlanta Eagle. Even subdued it was still fun; hung out with Kurt and Steve and Barry. Saw a lot of people I hadn't seen in awhile.

Saturday night was a blast. Pet Shop Boys were playing outdoors at Chastain. Went with Chrissie, Dan and his new boyfriend Beau. We brought food and tons of wine.

They played all the hit songs and had an amazing light and video show. They even played a cover of Coldplay's Viva La Vida. Here are some pics taken from my Blackberry. They aren't the best pics, but you can get the gist of what we were seeing.

The stage before the show.

Go West.

Viva La Vida.

It's A Sin.

West End Girls.

Lyrics Rattling Around My Head

"We're all fine in the back of your mind
if we do what you like
then we could be with you tonight
if they bleed you dry
taken half the time
taken all your time."

The Twilight Sad
"I Became A Prostitute"

"Maybe I had said, something that was wrong
Can I make it better, with the lights turned on"

The XX

"How should I hold this girlfriend?
As tight as I ever could?
Now, why should I?
No reason why.
You wore me down worse.
Did I show?"


Appealing Things

Someone unexpected
Pet Shop Boys
Friends willing to help when you are in need.

Annoying Things

The past
Fruit flies
Finding the ugly truth out about someone you cared for once

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Videos of the Week

Here are the latest videos that have caught my attention this week:

Peaches is pretty indescribable. She is just who she is. You either love her or hate her, but she is never ever boring.

Wild Beasts are another band you will either love or hate. The singer's voice is too distinctive and odd, but there is something captivating about it. And this video is just haunting.

The second video from Wild Beasts new cd. It is a little more mainstream than the last one.

Pitchfork has listed their top videos of the 2000s and, while I would like to more of them on here, most have embedding problems so this is one of the few I could find to post. Avalanches are a DJ collective from Australia and their debut cd Since I Left You is stunning. Here is the title track with it's bittersweet video.

The XX are one of my new favorite bands. They are very minimal, but all of their songs pack a punch. Here are videos for two great songs with very atmospheric videos.

Silly and goofy video from dance music legends Basement Jaxx featuring the wonderful vocals of Sam Sparro.

Three videos from my college years.

Cute puppet video from Dan Deacon. Just a sweet song and video.

Fuck Buttons are another band you'll love or hate. This is their new single and video. I like the song. The video tends to make me motion sick though.

Insanely catchy song from Jay Reatard. I hate clowns though.