The xx are known for mellow, chilled-out indie music that is beloved by hipsters and the mainstream alike. A band hailing from London, it’s been a few years since we’ve heard anything new from them, with their last real release in 2012. “On Hold” is the lead single from their upcoming new album, I See You, and the band have spent a while apart. With Jamie xx having produced one of the most accomplished albums of 2015 as a solo project, there is a lot of expectation for this new album to meet the same standard.
Something that Jamie’s solo album missed however, was the joint vocals of both Romy Croft and Oliver Sim, a trait of The xx that has always made them stand out. Throughout “On Hold,” the trio swap between taking the lead, and the lyrics, talking about lost love, wouldn’t work without the other two singers and Jamie brings his top level production to the table, almost as a third singer.
The song itself is slow, with calming lyrics and delivery, which is nothing groundbreaking. However it’s the build up and the overall sound that is unique to The xx. When the song gets going, there’s an unusually fast beat, but it doesn’t detract from the haunting guitars and synths that frolic in the background of the vocals. This is definitely a song that is better listened to through headphones.
It’s also a lot more honest and upfront than anything this band has produced before. The lyrics are bolder, and Jamie xx’s production is second to none. The sample of the 1981 hit “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” by Hall & Oates exemplifies the new areas this band is exploring, being only the second sample the band has ever used, and the only one to really take the forefront. The sound may be more poppy than before, but this diminishes none of the band’s original charm that made them so highly acclaimed.
This band has been away for quite some time, and this upcoming album has been “in-the-works” for the better part of two years. But this song certainly presents an intriguing insight into what the album could entail; a perfect combination of The xx’s patented ethereal vocals and slow pace, working perfectly in conjunction with Jamie xx’s beats and pop-tinged style that proved so successful on In Colour. Let’s hope this album is as good as this first single.