With five years between albums and the rise of Jamie Smith (a.k.a Jamie xx) as one of electronic’s top producers, their third album would inevitably be different. How much of the trio would evolve was the question, especially after they released “On Hold” in November. The song showcased a new The xx, one that was more widescreen and lively than the stark sparseness of their brilliant debut album and their sophomore effort, Coexist. Would the rest of the record follow this path or was it a one-off number that teased fans of something new?

The answer is that I See You falls somewhere between Jamie xx’s sprawling soundscapes and brooding, minimalist approaches of Romy Madley Croft (lead guitar/vocals) and Oliver Sim (bass/vocals). The ten-song LP is unquestionably brighter and more expansive. It doesn’t stop with the sound, however, but Madley Croft and Sim’s songwriting is also bolder and more dynamic. Matters of the heart remain the album’s focus, but as oppose to streams of consciousness the two have crafted rich stories. “On Hold” was just the tip of the iceberg of The xx’s evolution. The opening track, “Dangerous”, reveals the beautiful marriage of the trio’s past and present. The song is vibrant and flashes with R&B and funk grooves with the song reaching a near-euphoric climax not previously heard. Their trademark, stirring intimacy, however, is retained, and for a moment your heart may skip beat.

Even on some of the slower and more brooding numbers, the music is deeper, fuller, and and more majestic. A mystical enchantment, for instance, radiates on “Replica”, which reaches the captivating depths of Daughter. On the stunning “Brave For You”, Madley Croft’s guitar is transformed into a stunning, cosmic soundscape while her aching voice has the closeness of a late-night encounter. The lovely “I Dare You”, meanwhile, reveals a whole new identity for The xx. It is a delicious synth-pop number that is at times breathless. The closer, “Test Me”, also sees the trio experiment with new approaches. The song commences as a lo-fi, bedroom number before transforming into a dark, interstellar beauty. It is a mesmerizing finale to an album that unveils a band slowly evolving.

I See You, as such, isn’t a complete transformation, but it represents a new The xx. Their sound is simultaneously exciting and fresh yet still stark and crippling. Only a few bands can create soundscapes that result in polarizing emotions, but then again The xx have never been ordinary. They’ve always kept things simple and the results have always been spectacular. I See You is no different.

I See You is out now via Young Turks. The xx will be commencing a global tour in February. Find dates here.

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