Sasquatch 2010 Preview: The xx
Do Believe the Hype
Upon the release of their debut, xx, in August 2009, London band The xx was all over the place. Critics swooned and heaped praise on the band, and they ended up on many “best of the year” lists. Their track “Intro” ended up in a heavy rotation AT&T ad and another standout, “Heart Skipped a Beat,” was featured on an episode of 90210. The band was subsequently invited to play huge American festivals including Coachella, Sasquatch!, Lollapalooza, and the Matt Groening curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in England.
With all of this sudden acclaim and adoration, initially I found it difficult to give this “it” band a fair, unbiased chance but with repeated listens to xx, I came to understand what all the hype was about. It’s a gorgeous, delicately crafted effort featuring hushed vocals over minimal instrumental arrangements soaked in reverb.
The band keeps it simple, but appropriate. These aren’t necessarily “pop” songs, in the traditional sense though. The tone tends to be dark and foreboding, and somewhat distant, like you’re lucky to be offered a glimpse into this intimate little scene they’ve created. It makes sense, then, that the band recorded their debut themselves, in their garage, mostly in the wee hours of the night.
"“Intro” (clever title for an operner, right?) sets the tone as simple guitar and bass gallop over start and stop electronic drum blips. Adding to the record’s intimacy is the call and response male/female vocal technique used by lead vocalists Jamie Smith and Romy Croft, especially on the aforementioned “Heart Skipped a Beat.” “Sometimes I Still Need You,” they sing back and forth. Their stories of lost love, heartbreak and romance have lead many to speculate a romantic connection between Croft and Smith, which they have adamantly denied.
Playing huge outdoor festivals is a challenge for any band, but will prove especially difficult for a group that prides themselves on a minimalistic approach to their art. So it will be interesting to see how the band performs this material live. Will the sparseness of the record translate, or will it be dull and unfulfilling?
Find out for yourself Sunday, May 30 at 5:50 p.m. when the band plays the Bigfoot Stage at Sasquatch!