Personnel: Romy Madley Croft (vocals, guitar); Oliver Sim (vocals); James Underwood, John Smart, Eos Counsell, Oli Langford (violin); Laurie Anderson , Emma Owens (viola); Peter Gregson, Charlotte Eksteen (cello); Jamie Smith (synthesizer, drums, programming); David Wrench (programming).
Audio Mixers: Jamie Smith; David Wrench.
Recording information: Fortress studios, London (03/2014/08/2016); Greenhouse Studios, Reykjavik (03/2014/08/2016); Marfa Recording Company, Marfa (03/2014/08/2016); Perfect Sound Studios, Los Angeles (03/2014/08/2016); RAK Studios, London (03/2014/08/2016); The Park Avenue Armory, XL Studio, New York (03/2014/08/2016).
Photographer: Oliver Sim.
In music and love, routine can be deadly. The exquisite stillness of the xx's music was so distinctive and influential that, by the time of Coexist, it felt dangerously close to confining them instead of defining them. Given the half decade between that album and I See You, change wasn't just necessary, it was inevitable. Jamie xx's solo work signaled that something different was on the way, and in retrospect, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim's cameos on In Colour feel like previews for these songs about being musically and romantically bold. I See You unleashes the xx's passion with swifter tempos, fuller arrangements, and a newfound heat in Sim and Croft's vocals on songs like "On Hold," which also showcases Jamie xx's audacious production skills as he turns a snippet of Hall & Oates' "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" into an irresistibly jittery hook. The band's commitment to taking chances reaps rewards elsewhere: "Dangerous" kicks off I See You with a brass fanfare that's about as far as the xx can get from the plaintive seduction of their early work. Indeed, the album's happiest songs are among the best, whether Sim and Croft are falling in love all over again over contrail guitars on "Say Something Loving" or letting a relentless beat give their flirtation momentum on "I Dare You." When the xx pare back, they do it with purpose, and still find subtle ways to push themselves. In another act's hands, the propulsive self-doubt of "A Violent Noise" would be a club banger, but they opt for simmering tension instead of drops and peaks. Croft shows off her seldom-heard upper register on "Lips" and "Performance," one of several moments on I See You where the band's self-awareness borders on meta. Sometimes, this becomes too literal and repetitive; as enjoyable as the sultry swagger of "Replica" and heartfelt balladry of "Brave for You" are, it's hard to shake the feeling that the xx are retracing their steps. Nitpicking aside, the risks they take on this album pay off: I See You is some of their most captivating music since their debut. ~ Heather Phares
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "The way the vocals are strung between hope and hurt feels especially intense, as if the singers are characters in a modern noir romance. The opening track, 'Dangerous,' begins with heraldic trumpet flares before settling into a skittering, dark-lit groove..."
Spin - "I SEE YOU is still distinctly and deeply an xx album, but in the gap between albums the group has found a way to move unmistakably forward while still sounding like themselves."
Entertainment Weekly - "It takes only a few seconds for the opening track, "Dangerous," with its blaring horn loop and frenetic drumbeat, to take the xx where they've never gone before: the club." -- Grade: A-
Magnet - "[W]hat makes this xx album work so well is that the British trio hasn't lost sight of what has made them special from their start as teenagers on their 2009 debut: their use of space and silence; the interplay between voices..."
Mojo (Publisher) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[T]here's a lightness here previously missing in the xx's often sepulchral soundscapes, evident in 'On Hold''s joyful sampling of Hall & Oates' 'I Can't Go For That (No Can Do),' and the slowed dancehall groove of 'Lips.'"
NME (Magazine) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Fragility and self-doubt are still themes. Indeed, the highlight is Romy's pensive, vulnerable ballad `Performance'."
Pitchfork (Website) - "The delivery of every line is considered, as the pair tug at the edges of lines to get the expression just right."
Clash (magazine) - "It's a work of incredible balance, one that provides ample space for each member's individual talents while reinforcing their need for this group, this union to exist."
Uncut (magazine) - "On I SEE YOU, The xx have expanded their horizons without sacrificing any of the emotional intimacy that makes them one of the most compelling acts around."