The xx: The Sounds Of Gothic Soul

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The four London Goths in The xx sport Mohawks, tattoos and black leather biker jackets. But if you were to peek at their record collection, you'd more likely find worn-out Aaliyah and Mariah Carey records than music by the likes of Bauhaus and Morrissey. On its self-titled debut, The xx strips down R&B music to its essential elements — putting an emphasis on forward-thrusting beats and soulful, melismatic vocals — and pairs it with indie-rock shadings like plinking guitar notes, buzzy synthesizers and otherworldly electronic effects. The result is a batch of songs that are sometimes haunting and always riveting.

Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "Crystalised"
  • Artist: The xx
  • CD: The xx
  • Genre: Rock
The xx; credit: Owen Richards i

In "Crystalised," The xx describes two damaged lovers who are torn apart by their own insecurities. Owen Richards hide caption

toggle caption Owen Richards
The xx; credit: Owen Richards

In "Crystalised," The xx describes two damaged lovers who are torn apart by their own insecurities.

Owen Richards

At first, "Crystalised" resembles an undercooked demo, as singer-guitarist Romy Croft and guitarist Baria Qureshi strum gloomy notes over muted, rumbling drums. But then the group glides into the chorus and the sudden shift to a bright, melodic key feels jarring in the best sense possible. It's like looking at one of those Magic Eye paintings: Suddenly, everything comes into focus.

Throughout "Crystalised," Croft and singer-bassist Oliver Sim narrate the conversation between two damaged lovers who are torn apart by addiction and their own insecurities. "You say I'm foolish," he sings; "I wish the tide would take me over," she counters. Sid and Nancy and Kurt and Courtney would've related to this kind of tragic story. And, given The xx's punk-flavored R&B groove, maybe Ike and Tina would have, too.

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