The center could never hold with The xx and their shadowy, restrained dream pop. With the development of Jamie xx as a producer of near-inscrutable house and dance music, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim were always going to go to the right of the dial. More beats per minute and volume approaching 11. Their aching vocals were almost tailor-made to be paired with sampled sighs and drum beats building toward a geyser-like release.
Even with such an assumption, actually hearing “On Hold,” the first single from the xx’s third album I See You is sort of stunning. Yes Madley Croft and Sim have been here before. They each appeared on tracks from Jamie’s In Colour, but not together. Now, with this ascendant post-disco effort, they’re together again at last and their relational tension playing out over an insistent beat is just beauteous. “It could be love, I think you’re too soon to call us old, when and where did we go cold?” Sim asks in the hushed intro. As Jamie’s production grows, the question’s repeated and feels shakier. Madley Croft only adds to the uncertainty with her counter. The past beliefs of her “young heart” are tinctured by a low-end bass and hi-hat skitters. “On Hold,” like so many great xx tracks, is all about such an erosion. It’s about watching someone leaving and hoping they’ll return whilst knowing they won’t. The framing has changed for the xx but the picture is still the same.
I See You is out January 13, 2017 through XL and can be pre-ordered here. The tracklist can be found below:
2. “Say Something Loving”
4. “A Violent Noise”
7. “Brave For You”
8. “On Hold”
9. “I Dare You”
10. “Test Me”