On their much anticipated third studio album, The xx leave behind their minimalist guitar arrangements in favour of a more upbeat aesthetic. Produced à deux by their own Jamie xx and Rodaidh McDonald, I See You was recorded over two and a half years in New York, Marfa, Texas, Reykjavik, Los Angeles, and London.
It arrives via Young Turks – like their 2009 self-titled debut, 2012’s Coexist, and most recently, Jamie xx’s 2015 solo debut In Colour. It’s the latter that the new album takes its cue from, with the producer impacting upon the sound of the London trio more noticeably than before.
I See You shows Romy Croft, Oliver Sim and Jamie xx evolve as a group without losing their identity. Characteristic elements like their reoccurring caesuras, engendering that heavy emptiness only The xx manage to create, the charming duet of Croft and Sim on ‘I Dare You’ with its delayed guitar melody, or the fractured bass lines of ‘On Hold’ work as reminders of their instantly recognisable, signature sound.
Their achievement on this album however is realising that for it to translate to the now-time, they had to expand their framework by filling their stripped-back guitar structures with a more diverse instrumental pallette. Thus, trembling violins increase the tension of the subsequent pause on ‘Performance’, ‘Lips’ with its galloping tonewood beat has a modern, distinctly Jamie xx feel to it – and with the major-key, expansive pop set-up of ’Say Something Loving’, we witness The xx happier than ever before.