It’s been three years since The xx exploded onto the scene with their minimalist and emotionally-charged debut in 2009, but since then they haven’t taken any leave of absence. xx spent over a year and a half in the UK Album Chart, and it won the Mercury Prize in 2010. Jamie xx has been pursuing a solo career, releasing We’re New Here in 2011, a rework of Gil Scott-Heron’s final album before his untimely death, and releasing the singles ‘Far Nearer’ and ‘Beat For.’ Then, throughout this year, demos and live recordings of new tracks have been circulating, many of which will feature on their much anticipated sophomore album, Coexist, set to be released on 10 September.
Yesterday, The xx unveiled their new single, ‘Angels.’ It’s a sparse and hugely atmospheric track, opening with a gentle and echoey guitar riff, before Romy Madley Croft’s spidery vocals enter. This is the first track released without Baria Qureshi, the former second guitarist who left the band shortly after xx was released, but her absence is not noted, and the formula remains unchanged. ‘Angels’ would fit nicely onto xx, and be one of the stronger tracks at that, which is saying something.
The fleeting percussive elements in the middle of the song make a welcome and organic contrast to the usually distinctly electronic beats, even if is more than likely an MPC. The absence of Oliver Sim’s vocals on this track is also worth noting. Croft takes on all responsibilities, singing forlornly about a distant and ephemeral lover. ‘If someone believed me/They would be as in love with you as I am.’ It is a triumphant return for the London-trio.