THE XX’s third album ‘I See You’ is the spoils of four hard years’ labour, a vertiginous new height scaled for the pop group. It is a record that sees them performing with optimum new nerve, transparency and clarity. Because it is made by The xx, its implicit boldness is sculpted from a tough and tender space, one which stretched its limits for expansion against the core musical aesthetic Romy and Oliver first found as 16-year-olds playing on a stage together.
I See You is marked by a tonal shift to something close to pure, crisp pop structure, adorned by unusual crescendos that echo a dextrous DJ inching their dancer toward climax without ever quite lifting the house lights. Its lyric sheet moves from the danger and hopelessness of love to its deliciousness and rapture; a move into a more outward looking proposition. ‘I See You’ is recognisably still The xx but now powered by voluble ambition, of the three perfect counterweights to one another starting to not just realise but harness their full potential.
The xx have sold 2.7million records the world over. They have platinum and gold discs amassed from across Europe, the Americas, Australia. They’re one of only three British bands – the others being One Direction and Mumford & Sons – to have a gold certified debut album in the USA in the last decade. Their multimillion streaming and social media stats are dizzying. If this wasn’t supposed to happen, I See You sounds like the concession not just that it did, but furthermore that it was meant to.