Journal

Talking about: The xx_I See You

The-xx-I-See-You-1483713805It could be love, I think you’re too soon to call us old.

The xx’s (consisting of Romy, Oliver Sim and Jamie xx) most recent album ‘I See You’ is not only a smooth transition into a new style from their previous albums, whilst exploring new themes, but it let’s Jamie xx hold the flag and take the lead production-wise after the success of his debut left-field/house album In Colour of 2015. Built around weird, almost baroque-like chants in Lips and their usual finger picked ambient guitar style in Replica, yet a four on the floor beat combined with a Hall and Oates sample shows Jamie xx isn’t afraid to bring the dance floor from his world of electronic house and downtempo into the band’s unique indie dream pop style.

My personal favourite on the album, Violent Noise, features just Oliver Sim’s vocals over some ridiculously chill and smoothly picked guitar progressions, accompanied by just some subtle, reverby spaced-out arpeggiated synth stabs. In the chorus it thickens out a bit with more of a sequenced pattern on the synths and also the drums charmingly creep in a way that you barely notice.

The strongest song on the album was also one of my favourite songs from 2016 – On Hold. The sample from the song I Can’t Go For That by Hall and Oates was probably intended to take the audience by surprise when it hits you in the chorus. It is rare that someone can sample a portion from such a well known song and completely remake it. Which is what Jamie xx precisely executes in this song. Sometimes for a good song you don’t need intricate instrumental work, complex lyrics, and a deep and well thought out meaning. All you really need is a catchy-as-fuck repetitive sample and a fun beat that makes you want to tear up the d floor, joined with a fun and memorable verse-chorus structure. Those are the best songs. Somewhere on my bucket list is definitely to hear this song live.

Another pick is I Dare You, which whenever I put on I can imagine a summer evening driving a convertible into the sunset (even though I don’t have a convertible) with a soft breeze, because that is what that song does to me, which is pretty surprising because really all it is, is arranged very simply, with limited layers; the smoothest drum loop consisting of a kick and a snare, an ambient, faint synth, the trademark reverby packed, rough around the edges guitars, and of course the shared whispering/singing between Romy and Oliver Sim.

If you asked the hardcore fanbase, they’d probably tell you I picked out the worst songs on the album to talk about. But these are the songs that resonate with me the most. Most of all, I look forward to Jamie xx’s next release.

Talking about: alt-J_RELAXER

relaxer

I just want to love you in my own language.

After their debut An Awesome Wave in 2012 the band proved themselves to be maybe not one of the best bands but definitely one of the most unique bands, and had a specific sound to it that could only be associated with them, however sometimes I have difficulty pinpointing exactly what it is. Using a cowbell instead of a hi hat in most of their songs, the very nasal singing style of Joe Newman, or the way they blend hip-hop/rock/folk so effortlessly.

RELAXER‘s probably the album I’ve been looking forward to most when it was announced, after their first single, 3WW. Which was unlike anything I’d ever expect out of an alt-J song. There’s a beautiful intro which lasts for just over 1 and a half minutes, which perfectly sets the tone for the album. The constant cello which acts as a drone in the background against the soft picking of the guitar, accompanied by a smooth shaker and click for percussion. At this point I’m not that interested about the meaning of the lyrics as much as I want to hear some vocals, which pays off, not only because they have kept their singing style of switching so easily between Joe Newman and Gus Unger Hamilton, but also they feature a guest vocalist, Ellie Rowsell, from Wolf Alice, whose voice goes down so bitterly in this song.

Another featured vocalist, Marika Hackman, crawls into the song on the second half of Last Year, a peaceful acoustic and very soothing track, which yet somewhat feels like it could be played in a massive cathedral with a large choir of many Joe Newmans.

A favourite of mine is their cover of House Of The Rising Sun, completely disregarding the original song and only focusing on their own interpretation of it, which feels like it brings completely new context to the original song. The instrumental is a mixture of guitar finger picking and a string section, difficult to differentiate between the two, with just a very subtle bass line in the background.

Not all the songs apply to the title though. This is clearly shown in the song Hit Me Like That Snare in which Joe attempts to sing like Johnny Rotten, the most confusing lyrics over a fast paced, weirdly mixed track, with the drums and guitars never in one place in the mix, and odd female vocals in the background appearing to be screaming or moaning.

Deadcrush is probably going to be the one that attracts most people. Possibly the smoothest beat I’ve heard this year. A beat composed of a repetitive bass line, and some soft hisses and breaths that you can barely tell apart. Combined with weird background vocals and subtle chill guitar strumming, everything about this song is catchy.

The second single In Cold Blood really confused me. The album was going to be called ‘RELAXER’ and we did get a relaxing, calm first single, but In Cold Blood was not really relaxing, but more of a traditional alt-J song that felt like it could belong more in the first album. Seeing that the track was going to be right next to 3WW, it was more confusing being told that their next album was going to be called RELAXER and then seeing a relaxing song right next to a banger of a track. However I guess it works if you give it more listens. It would have made sense to have all the chill tracks back to back and then the more banger songs put together.

alt-J have always said they want their music to be headphone music, and this really is headphone music. I really, really like it but you really need the right headspace to listen to it. It’s a really inconsistent record. Which is good, sometimes.