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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Two years ago, the British pop trio The xx released their debut album and attracted a lot of attention with their minimalist arrangements and haunted boy-girl harmonies. They've just released their follow-up CD, "Coexist." Will Hermes has our review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNSET")

WILL HERMES, BYLINE: The focal point of The xx on their debut as well as on their new record is the musical romance between the singers, Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft, who each sound adrift in their own bubble.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUNSET")

THE XX: (Singing) I always thought it was sad the way we act like strangers. After all that we had, we act like we had never met. We make believe I've never seen your face, you neither me. You catch my eye. I'll register a smile. You were more than just a friend, oh, the feeling. It never came to an end. I can't bear to see you.

HERMES: Their magic is partly made by nonsinging band member Jamie Smith, who since The xx's debut has become one of the sharpest producers in pop. You hear the hands of Jamie Smith more prominently on this record; the beats and musical backdrops are more varied and command more attention. While The xx's debut sounded more like '80s post-punk, plenty of moments here feel like straight-up club music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "REUNION")

XX: (Singing) Did I see you see me in a new light? Did I see you see me in a new light? Did I...

HERMES: But it's still the vocals that make The xx so emotionally potent. If the songwriting on "Coexist" isn't as strong as it was on the first album, I think the magnified grooves make up for it. And that's encouraging because with so many half-baked club jams masquerading as pop songs these days, it's good to hear pop musicians who understand the magic of a perfect dance beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISSING")

XX: (Singing) We used to be closer than this. Is it something you missed? We used to be closer than this. We used to be closer than this.

CORNISH: The new album by The xx is called "Coexist." Reviewer Will Hermes is the author of the book "Love Goes to Buildings on Fire."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MISSING")

XX: (Singing) Is it something you missed? Winged or chained, I ask you, would you have stayed? Did I hold you too tight? Did I not let enough light in? Ooh, ooh, ooh. Ooh, ooh, ooh. Ooh, ooh, ooh. Ooh, ooh, ooh.

CORNISH: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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