I See You, the third record from the xx, is an unusual creature, not so much because of what they’ve changed, but because of how much things stayed the same. Sure, when they previewed “On Hold” we all had the feeling that Jamie xx has very much bled over his mother band’s work. We all thought that it’s In Colour redux. And yes, there just seems to be a bit more to I See You: from the wider use of sampling to the brighter undertones enveloping the record, you get the impression the xx are no longer limited to “gloomy downtempo”, for lack of a better term. And yet, if you strip all that away, the songs are the same: mesmerizing at the right moments, plodding if you aren’t in the mood. The change of pace and mood is a nice thing, but I left with the feeling that it’s all window dressing. I’m not sure if I’m missing something in the equation. Is it me? Do I need to listen to it more? Were their previous records, with its minimal approach, just easier to understand and approach? (That’s a misnomer – I See You should be easier.) I like the risk (if you could call it that) taken, but I’m not sure if it’s working. [NB] | 3/5
“Crystalised” by the xx | I featured this song on my crash course when the xx performed here in Manila, but I thought I’d mention it again, because, well, title. It also rhymes. “Crystallized” and “paradise” is a bit of a stretch, but hey, they talk about applying pressure. That is a necessary element. Also, “paralyzed”. And “satisfied”. These guys win. [NB]
In the past few years we’ve seen more relatively out-of-mainstream acts perform in Manila. Gone, it seems, are the times when the only foreign artists who would stop here are 60s and 70s bands targeting baby boomers, or the obviously big pop acts. Now we’ve had visits from Grimes, the xx and Tegan and Sara. We’ve had the Wanderland Festival last April, an attempt at bringing summer festival culture to the Philippines (albeit with half of the line-up being Aussie acts with, likely, a very small following). And, of course, there were the bigger acts, like Joss Stone at Malasimbo (which has been going on for a while and has been, so far, mostly under the radar) and, last month, the Killers.
I’ve written a fair bit about the xx, and I’ve loved them since my New Yorker friend Jean convinced me to listen to their first record by sending me the MP3 code to her vinyl record, but no, I’m not watching them perform tonight at the NBC Tent. Tickets are expensive, and I can’t drag my girlfriend to the whole thing because, well, tickets are expensive. And nobody I know who’s interested seems to be watching either, because, well, tickets are expensive. I’d call this crash course a bit of a middle finger to the hipsters who made good music inaccessible – or, are they hipsters? Because a pop station who won’t touch the xx in theory is sponsoring this, bah – but no, I’d call this me being topical. If you’re watching tonight and you haven’t an idea who the xx are, well, you’re welcome. [NB]
“VCR” by the xx | The writing is on the record shelves: they were selling the xx’s Coexist for months now (to my chagrin, because I had to buy this in Singapore) and, inevitably, they’re now going to Manila for a concert. (30 July at the NBC Tent, if you’re wondering.) I’m now thinking if I should go: I don’t know if I’ll have to money or the time, but I’ve loved them since my New Yorker friend Jeany introduced me to them. (“You take what you get there,” she said yesterday. “It sucks that not enough bands go there, and it’s not [like] you can just fly everywhere to see a show.”) Also, this song – this particular song – was playing on one of those nights when my girlfriend and I exchanged our first I love yous, in a coffee shop, in the middle of the night. For that reason alone, maybe I should go. And bring her, too. That night was the first time she heard the xx, and now she’s a fan, too. Having them for our first concert (and anybody who reads this blog knows I rarely go to these things) would be poetic. (Update: tickets will be sold via Ticketworld from Monday, at P5,880 and P3,960.)