Like many others, I was blown away by The xx’s first album. It came out of nowhere and quickly took over my ears. I simply couldn’t stop listening to it. To me, it’s a desert island classic whose presence has only grown over time. So of course I was eagerly anticipating their second album convinced I would love it unconditionally. Their gorgeous first single “Angels” did little to dispel that idea but following up an album that was universally loved is tricky. I wasn’t sure what to expect and there is no question that Coexist is one of the best records I’ve heard this year but I couldn’t help feeling that there was something missing. More specifically, I missed Jamie xx’s drums. I have no problem with minimalism. I like minimalism and I certainly subscribe to the idea of sticking with a formula that works but Jamie’s post-debut production work has been some of the most exciting music being made right now. His single “Far Nearer” headlined my year end mix for 2011 and after discovering what he’s capable of I could have used a little more from his end of the mix. There was something familiar about this pattern, it reminded me of Portishead’s transition from Dummy to their self-titled second album. The basic structure was still there – the sound, the voice, the atmosphere but it didn’t have the same beat or energy. I do think there are some beautiful subtleties to be found on Coexist, especially when heard on a good speakers, but there’s also no denying it lacks some of the punch that the first record delivered so effortlessly. I’ve grown increasingly disinterested with remixes over the years but I have to admit I’m excited for the possibilities with these tracks. There seems to be a real opportunity for some of these songs to gain a second life in the right hands. I’d be surprised if Coexist didn’t end up in my year end Top 5 and I like it more than most. It’s a quality release that I’m determined to let sink in fully before I pass any final judgments and  songs like “Sunset” and “Swept Away” give me exactly what I was asking for. I think Pitchfork is right on target with a 7.5 – that’s about where it sits with me, very good but just short of great.

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