The XX - Co-Exist

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While second albums are where bands usually add more elements to their sound to keep things interesting, the xx go even darker and sparer than they were on their debut, which was pretty sparse and dark to begin with. On the lovely album opener "Angels," elegantly serpentine guitars echo into spectral shadows, and fragments of beats and melodies hang unresolved in the air, surrounded by vast expanses of nothingness. All that silence throws the album's subtle sounds into sharp relief, highlighting the luminous keyboards and percussion on "Try" and "Tides"' undulating bassline more effectively than cranking up the volume on them would have. Coexist's exploration of isolation and intimacy is demanding and rewarding in its bold subtlety and eloquent simplicity.

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