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Review: The xx marks the spot with sophomore album ‘Coexist’

Three years have passed since The xx’s self-titled debut wowed critics and fans alike. The soft-spoken and secretive trio, then a four-piece band, had created an album that stuck in listeners’ ears, and eventually seeped into their souls. For their sophomore LP, “Coexist,” the group becomes fixated on heartbreak while crawling out from the shadows of their debut.

The xx’s debut album “xx” chronicled a healthy relationship, complete with watching VHS tapes and stargazing. But “Coexist” represents the ugly break-up after the affection dies out. Lead singers Oliver Sim and Romy Madley-Croft personify this failed courtship as they trade vocals throughout the album, almost as though they are talking to each other.

Songs like “Sunset” epitomize just how bad this relationship got. Madley-Croft sings, “I always thought it was sad, the way we act like strangers after all that we had,” to which Sim replies, “It is understood that we did all we could.”

“Coexist” loses some of the brooding found on the debut album. However, it supplants it with brighter instrumentals. “Coexist” is built with sparse guitar, barely audible vocals, masterful beat production from Jamie Smith and The xx’s most valuable asset — strategic silence, where some of the album’s best moments come in the spaces devoid of sound.

“Missing” is one of the loudest songs the band has ever written, which isn’t saying much. Sim holds nothing back vocally while he laments his heart’s unusual beat patterns with the lyric, “My heart is beating in a different way.” Heavy bass and Madley-Croft’s echoing backing vocals channel the cool musical aesthetic of British ambient-electro prodigy Burial.

While “Coexist” is just a shade below the artistry exhibited on the group’s debut, it is undeniably a more than worthy follow-up album. Fans should enjoy sifting through “Coexist” to find new influences and themes.

Overall rating: 3 1/2 stars

The xx touches their fans with their sophomore album ‘Coexist.’

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