Footnotes: The xx

Photographer Jason Nocito
August 17, 2012

Footnotes is the section in our magazine where we take a deeper look at the music surrounding our feature artists. Read Matthew Schnipper’s FADER #81 feature on The xx here, and check out our notes below.

The xx, “Angels,” Coexist (Young Turks 2012)
This song could be too cheesy, but it’s not. Being as in love with you as I am, Romy Madley-Croft sings, and you can hear all the walks down the aisle coming. Part of the reason it skews away from trite is the live percussion, which makes the song stately. A big, real drum roll, something The xx have never utilized, is surprisingly useful here, offsetting the guitar’s dreamy twinkle. If anything, this song is a vista into the songwriting The xx could do for others in the future. Trey Songz would murder for something like this. MS

Drake f. Rihanna, “Take Care” Take Care (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal 2011)
I have to believe that when Jamie xx was asked by one of the biggest pop stars in the world for a beat, the decision to send him one based around a Gil Scott-Heron sample was an intentional act of subversion. Sure, Jamie’s re-working of Scott-Heron is a good song, but getting Rihanna to sing the old poet’s words was one of the most secretly intellectual and punk moments on radio in the last decade. Having been released so soon after the legend’s death, Jamie eulogized him in a way that Scott-Heron would’ve loved, by busting through the usually generic lyrics of the corporate guest vocalist with words that are meant to open our eyes and sting them with sadness. AF

Shakira, “Islands” (The xx Cover) Sale el Sol (Sony 2010)
The best thing about Shakira’s doggedly faithful cover of The xx’s “Islands” is imagining the inverse: The xx covering Shakira, that nimble and taut Latina with brains and a butt. Madley-Croft and Shakir'as vocal styles do possess a kindred clip, a way of sweetly lacing a withering phrase in a drizzle of honey, making any bitterness that much easier to swallow. But really, couldn’t you picture Madley-Croft doing a spare and pallid version of Shakira’s hot-blooded “She Wolf?” Isn’t that what’s endlessly appealing about The xx, the way they brand their pop to feel cerebral and serious and yet, when it comes down to it, completely at home in the mainstream? AB

Footnotes: The xx