Martina Topley-Bird-Crystalised (Cover) ft. Mark Lanegan & Warpaint

The original has probably been out of our collective memory for quite some time now, and not only is this a nice reminder of its qualities, but it’s also a fantastic cover that warrants just as much attention.

The track is taken in a rough-edged direction, contrasting the smooth, rounded sounds of the laidback original with a crisp percussion line and a more diverse vocal output. Mark Lanegan opens up with low, bassy vocals that aren’t hugely dissimilar to Oliver of The xx’s own dulcet qualities, but carry a less-refined, grittier quality that makes them wholly endearing in their own right, and almost bring a more “grown-up” feel to proceedings. Martina joins in with her own brand of higher-pitched yet gentle vocals, offering a strong contrast to both the original and Mark’s raspy output, without diminishing the relaxing quality that made the original track so addictive. She’s generally regarded as one of the most well-rounded vocalists in almost any genre, and her performance here is about as close to a perfect delivery as you could hope for, whilst the same can certainly be said for the opposing vocals of Mark Lanegan, who admittedly I’d never heard before.

An excellent cover accompanied by a part-animated video that doesn’t get too frenetic, and instead captures the sombre, nighttime vibe of the track well whilst adding just enough colour and activity. You can grab this cover now on vinyl, or 7th October digitally.

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Jamie xx-Sunset Remix (Video)

Many understandably find it odd when an act remixes one of their own songs, but to me, it shows that a song doesn’t have to be cut loose and full stopped when complete; there’s room to move a track in another direction. That’s not saying a song needs improvement, but simply applying its component pieces in a different way extends its life beyond one mode of output.

And that’s what Jamie does with this remix. It’s by and large all the same parts that made up the original, but shuffled around a touch, most notably with the dulcet guitar plucks altered into a more stunted approach, whilst the changes are embellished by crisper percussion and a higher tempo. There are segments which are near-identical to the original too, particularly the first half of Romy’s vocals, and hence it feels like a sideways move on the original rather than attempting to completely overhaul it-a move that I’m on board with, given the original’s fantastic quality. The rework ends up retaining the dark, moody vibe of its origin work, but injects a touch of energy and positivity that makes it much better suited to the summer than the original, and hence is a good reimagining of the piece.

The video is made up of footage from a French TV show, and whilst the throwback clip clearly has no direct or obvious link to the song, its minimal, oddly hypnotising nature links up to the audio well. Worth a watch, and definitely worth a listen.

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The xx-Fiction (Video)

In the audio, Oliver Sim goes solo on the vocals and that’s exactly what happens in the video. It’s a downbeat, sombre watch that matches up very well with the track’s inherent elegaic qualities, and makes for an immersive audiovisual throughout.

If you’re after a colourful video with high levels of activity and a killer storyline, look away now- instead, this is a monochromatic, slow-moving piece that features Oliver walking through various landscapes in what seems an ever-escalating and rather ambiguous search. Whilst his bandmates sleep, he moves from looking out of his window to staring through the outdoor pool, in what is a nicely timed scene as it reflects the rather ‘aquatic’ melodies that enter the production around that point. That moves quickly on to walking alone through woodland, with a gaze fixed mostly skyward, before a short dance seems to lead to the emergence of daylight. It’s clearly not attempting any intricately-layered storyline, and instead it’s a piece that works with the elements and movement of the audio extremely well, capturing its dark and moody vibe without losing its hint of loneliness and desperation.

An enjoyable watch that certainly enhances the audio, and you don’t need me to tell you, but be sure to get that Coexist album into your iTunes if you haven’t already.

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The xx and Jessie Ware-Lady / Music Sounds Better With You (Cover)

Seperately, they’re both incredible artists in their own lanes, and together here they remain utterly superb. The unexpected collaborative team churns out a blended cover of Modjo’s Lady and Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You, ably supported by a slightly tweaked version of Sunset from The xx’s own Coexist album for a diverse track that works far better than it should.

Still with me? Good. In addition to providing the instrumentation for Sunset, The xx themselves deliver the ever-memorable hook from the Modjo original, taking it from its originally-upbeat style down into the sombre, moody soundscape they’re always so skilled at creating. It works almost seamlessly, and that doesn’t change at all when Jessie Ware adds her contribution, that being the iconic hook from the Stardust classic; yet again, it blends as smoothly as you could hope for, though Jessie’s natural intensity and passion prevents it from sinking too deep into the percussion, and instead injects that section of the track with a lot of vibrancy. The tweaks to the instrumentation are well-suited in context, with the guitars coming through on a slightly sharper, more lively style that suits Jessie’s work in particular, and caps off what is a unique and enjoyable performance. There are already fans desperate for a studio mix of the track, and fingers crossed that comes through at some point.

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The Great Gatsby OST (Full Album Stream)

We’ve heard full versions, snippets and rough edits of various tracks from this official soundtrack, and ahead of its release on Tuesday we get a full stream of the album in its completed format.

As listed previously, artists include Beyonce, Andre 3000, The xx, Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine, Emeli Sande, Q-Tip, Jack White and many more. Of course, Jay-Z also contributes a track in addition to being the album’s executive producer, rounding off what is surely one of the most star-studded film soundtracks in recent memory, whilst also remaining sonically diverse through its range of artist choices. I’ve got no doubts that there’ll be something on here for everyone, and you can stream it all courtesy of NPR below.

The Great Gatsby OST (Full Album Stream)

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The xx-Together

Baz Lurhmann’s upcoming The Great Gatsby film has a phenomenal list of artists contributing to its soundtrack, and among them are Jay-Z, Andre 3000, Beyonce, Jack White, and The xx, who’ve contributed this gem to the OST.

The haunting, atmospheric sounds are right out of their debut album’s playbook, with particular trademarks being the track’s most mellow points exuding a dark, moody vibe, and the relative lack of a synthesised high point; the latter was a key feature of several tracks on their sophomore Coexist album, and hence its lack of presence here is notable. With that said, the inclusion of strings towards the end adds even further depth to their innately-cinematic work, and as far as I’m aware, it’s the first time the band have thrown in such a foreground use of strings. It’s very effective for sure, and certainly brings the track closer to ‘classic film score’ style, with its addition making for a strong climax to a slow-building track.

The vocal work is, once again, thoroughly excellent. This darker style tends to suit Oliver Sim’s voice slightly better, with the natural gravity of his voice blending well with the production, and though that’s a synergy that comes off well here, Romy’s brighter performance makes for a very likeable contrast to the otherwise sombre soundscape. Look out for this on the aforementioned soundtrack, scheduled for release on 7th May.

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The xx-Last Christmas (Live on Radio 1 Live Lounge)

The xx are really doing the rounds, presumably to promote their Night + Day European festival tour, and their latest live performance involved a cover of this Wham! classic.

Truthfully, this is a little bizarre. Their usual aquatic, delayed guitar strums are in, but they’re joined by a piercing percussion and synth work in styles that aren’t usually found in The xx’s music, to add the necessary dose of energy to keep some connectivity to the original. I’m not sure it entirely works though, as it comes off as a little scattered and unorganised, in particular the synth work which seems to change every so often, and the general sharpness of the instrumentation doesn’t quite work with their vocals. With that said, the vocals themselves are excellent, sticking true to the downbeat xx style whilst injecting a good level of emotion to at least attempt parity with the beat. As a package, I’m just not sure it comes off, but credit to the trio for giving a song so far from their style a try.

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The xx-Teardrops (Live on BBC Radio 2)

The xx have set such a stripped-back, barely-there baseline with their production that any slight increase in activity their music has makes it sound lively in comparison. That’s never more evident than here, as they take Womack and Womack’s throwback anthem for a spin, and come up with a typically xx take on it.

The original is famed for its empassioned, high-energy nature, and yet this darker, significantly more relaxed take on the track works worryingly well. The guitar work is a highlight, with the bass increasing in activity and bordering on unadulterated funk as the track progresses, whilst that trademark distorted (and somewhat aquatic? No?) string effect that they’ve utilised previously adds a more obvious layer of bright, sharp melody. Romy’s vocals are once again pitch-perfect from start to finish, whilst the sporadic inclusion of Oliver’s deeper and complementary tones are a lovely addition to create further depth. To my surprise, a studio version of this cover was released on a bonus disc that accompanied their debut album-couldn’t tell you where to find it, but I hope someone does as I’m desperate to own this. Phenomenal cover.

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The xx-Angels (Live on BBC Radio 2)

Their style is already superbly mellow, but you take that sound into an acoustic environment and it’s an overload of brilliance. Their minimal nature translates beautifully to the format, and this performance is indicative both of what fans can expect on their live tour (taking place right now) and just how good a band they are outside of a studio environment.

The latter point is important-many acts can do great things when they’re fine-tuned by an audio engineer and producer, but few can recreate that in a live setting as accurately and skillfully as these guys. The instrumentation is on point, those characteristic melodies gentle yet bursting with atmosphere, whilst Romy’s work achieves the same vibe with a delicate and hugely engrossing vocal performance. There’s nothing to dislike here: this is a live performance of the absolute highest order. Give this a listen below, and look out for one more track from this session to be posted momentarily.

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The xx-Chained (Video)

Here is our new video for Chained! Directed by Young Replicant, who were a pleasure to work with. Spending 2 days underwater wasn’t quite as easy as we thought. We love how it turned out, hope you enjoy too, xx The xx.

One of the first releases from Coexist back in early August, and as one of the strongest tracks on the album it’s a great choice for a video.

Filmed in partnership with The Creators Project, the colour palette of the video is excellent throughout, with their sombre qualities of the beat captured by the range of greys and blues, whilst the more upbeat vocals are represented in the ocassional bursts of ‘oil slick’ rainbow colours. That theme sets up the rest of the video nicely, with an empty, bleak dock livened by the activity of the band as they jump into the still waters, once again visualising the differing segments of the song, whilst being visually impressive in the almost-ethereal underwater scenes. It’s all accompanied by a grand sense of scale that every shot emanates via the surrounding emptiness and calm of each landscape, and the whole package makes for visually engaging viewing that complements the audio terrifically. Stream and buy the album here if you haven’t already done so.

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The xx-Angels (Four Tet Remix)

Only a radio rip for now, but the sheer promise of having The xx and Four Tet together makes it worth bearing with the imperfect quality.

Unlike several other remixes, Four Tet opts to retain the gentleness of the original track but without actually using much of the original production. He’s instead thrown together a sleepy, dreamscape-style production with soft electronic melodies and pillowy bass, before heading to a distorted and unusual production in the middle section, and finally closing off with the two beat styles blended together. Atmosphere and aura ooze out of this one, and look out for a release on vinyl in the coming weeks.

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The xx-December 2012 UK Tour

Their Coexist album has been met with plenty of praise and satisfaction by their fans, though the first week sales were a little lower than I expected at 58k. In support of the album, they’ve announced a handful of dates across the country, the pre-sale for which begins tomorrow at midday.

Brighton Dome – Thursday 6th December
O2 Academy Newcastle – Tuesday 11th December
Wolverhampton Civic Hall – Wednesday 12th December
Bristol Colston Hall – Friday 14th December
O2 Academy Brixton – Sunday 16th December

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The xx-Reconsider

Those of you who either streamed this album or got it through more nefarious means may have missed out on this one, set to be a bonus track on the Japanese edition of the album.

Japan always gets the good stuff. This is one that would have slotted in beautifully on their first album, with a haunting melancholy that isn’t quite as dominant on Coexist as it is on the debut LP. The dueting vocals are a real highlight here too; it offers a nice complement to Romy and Oliver’s individual section, providing a vocal performance from the duo that certainly ticks all boxes. Really worth a listen, and hopefully this will be available for purchase over here at some point.

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The xx-Coexist (Full Album Stream)

This leaked a couple of weeks back, and I can confirm it’s another stunning LP from the incomparable collective of The xx.

Stylistically, it isn’t a huge departure from their debut album, there are enough deft changes to make this stand out in its own right. In particular, several of the tracks boast a comparatively upbeat nature, largely through more positive lyricism and percussion with a little more speed and vibrancy, without being overly extroverted or opposed to the regular chillout nature of the production. Free stream available below, and you can pre-order the album here (due for release next Tuesday).

The xx-Coexist

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The xx-Angels (Live in Tokyo)

Coexist is mere weeks away now, and the single that seems to be gaining traction by the minute recieves another boost with this superb performance.

Filmed whilst out in Japan on a recent tour, their hotel room is converted into a makeshift performance area, only adding to the intimacy of this tender track. Under the assumption that there weren’t any post-edit tweaks (which is unlikely), the vocal and instrumental performance is absolutely flawless throughout, as Romy retains the beauty and gentleness of the studio version’s work in both aspects with a great performance.

The nighttime scenery and various cuts to other members of the band certainly help to set the scene and match up to that mental picture many of us had on hearing Angels, which is essentially all you usually want from a music video. And yet, this isn’t the video for the song. Very enjoyable stuff, and you can pre-order the album right now.

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The xx-Chained

Angels hasn’t even been at threat of leaving my rotation, and it looks like it’s quickly about to be joined by the second release from The xx’s upcoming sophomore album, Coexist.

As with the aforementioned first single, this is stylistically similar to their debut album, which will come as a welcome announcement for many. I’ve said it before but there’s always the threat that bands try to change it up too much, and The xx instead stick with what they’re excellent at, combining alternative, R&B and several other genres into a delicately cohesive product. It’s a touch livelier than Angels, opening with a much more active bass and quickly supporting that with additional percussion, whilst Oliver’s back to leading vocals with his deep, often-hypnotic tones, his dueting with Romy throughout being a real highlight of the track. The track also brings back those sharp yet atmospheric plucked melodies towards the end (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it), offering a clear sonic tie-in to their previous works, and this is another almost effortlessly superb bit of music from the trio.

The album drops on 10th September, and you can pre-order it here.

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The xx - Angels (The Confect Remix)

A truly excellent example of remix for you here. The xx’s single is a wonderfully tender effort, and this remix adds a selection of delicate touches to make the track a little sharper without losing the original’s lightness.

The key addition is the percussion, giving the track a rigidity and structure not found in the original, and though that’s intentional for the style The xx were going for, you can’t help but find that its inclusion here makes the track a much easier listen (before you jump at me, I didn’t say ‘better’). The further subtle additions, from increasing the prominence of the main melody to the effects on the vocals are all in keeping with the existing soundscape, and this is a thoroughly superb remix that stands up well alongside the original. EDIT: If you’re after a download link, The Confectionary have kindly made one available here.

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The xx-Angels

With The xx’s second album, Coexist, set to land on 10th September, we’re treated to the first single from the project and it’s a great effort that picks up where their debut left off.

The production draws on some familiar elements, with stop-start percussion, bassy plucks and synthesised melodies combining for a haunting and atmospheric track that’s full of the minimalist beauty that endeared many to The xx 3 years back. Romy’s vocals are soft yet emotional throughout, reflecting the introspective, love-driven lyricism well and synergising wonderfully with the production, as she always seems to do. It’s stylistically close to their universally-loved previous work, and I’d say any fans who wanted more of the same from the group will be in for a treat. I’ve seen criticism for the track on Twitter, possibly from those who wanted The xx to switch it up, but when they have this formula so well refined, why would they distort it? Too many bands get change-happy, and I’m glad they’ve stuck with what they’re good at.

You can pre-order the album in various spots, each of which will also result in you getting a download of this very track at midnight tonight.

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Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX-I’ll Take Care Of You Video

Probably the best track from their collaborative album, and hence a great choice to give the visual treatment. It’s a fantastically unique bit of music, and they’ve certainly done it justice with a video that really captures the imagination.

It would have been easy for the duo to grab some camera time for themselves, but being pretty artistic guys they’ve shown their integrity here as they spotlight the struggles of a single mother who also has a challenging line of employment: boxing. The boxer analogy always works well with music, as it spotlights the personal battles of people and both visualises and compares them with actual physical battles.

It’s a sport from which the ‘glamour’ can be easily removed too, and hence generally works very well when placed with a meaningful track. Here, the story certainly works with the audio to make this a realistic, relatively feel-good package (helped by the pretty adorable kid!) that is definitely worth a watch.

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Hercules & Love Affair-Shelter (The xx Cover)

The original was a rather brilliant song, and electronic outfit Hercules & Love Affair offer their own take on it here. It’s very enjoyable too, with a more upbeat, positive spin based on bouncy samples, sharp percussion and uplifting vocal work that flips the vibe of the track almost entirely.

It still (somehow) maintains a hint of the relaxing feel in the original, most probably by not ‘over-producing’, which also helps project the vocals a little more. Very good remix, and a nice contrast to the original. A refreshing take on what is a difficult track to tackle, this is definitely worth a listen.

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Jamie xx-Beat For

New solo material from Jamie xx is always a rare treat, and having really cultivated his reputation in recent months with a spate of remixes (including this remix album), there’s no shortage of anticipation for his material either.

The quality is far from perfect, but you can get a pretty good feel for the track. It’s heavily experimental, veers into offbeat sections at times, and switches between minimalistic styles and busier sections. This bipolar, schizophrenic style makes it pretty difficult to pin down and enjoy for me, as it seems to be trying to cram an awful lot in and hence is difficult to really get into. However, ears that are more accustomed to electronic, experimental and house music will be much more trained to the style and will surely enjoy the finer points of the track.

Jamie xx-Beat For

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Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx-We’re New Here (Full Album Stream)

Very nice surprise here, as the much-anticipated remix album from this unusual duo is made available for a full stream.

The previous two tracks made available have both shown the potential in this duo, fusing together Jamie’s experimental and often enjoyable production style with Gil’s diverse, vintage vocals to great effect. I’ve skimmed through the album very briefly, and it seems as though that quality is consistent throughout, as Jamie serves up a multitude of styles that manage to work with Gil’s voice, for the most part.

Fans of The xx will be clamouring for whatever new material they can get, and hopefully this collaboration has won over many others that weren’t previously familiar with either artist’s work. You can pre-order and listen to the whole thing in the widget.

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Creep and Romy of The xx-Days Video

Fitting video for one of the highlight tracks of the alternative scene in recent months. I’ve got serious expectations for both this track and Creep as a duo.

The track is dark and a little futuristic, and both elements are captured superbly here with an ominous yet psychedelic video that makes fantastic use of various lighting effects and benefits from some skilled cinematography. It’s a little odd and quirky too, with lots of isolated, lonesome figures and instances of blood, levitation and so on: it all adds to the package appropriately, fitting the ethereal and experimental feel of the track. A first class all-round package, don’t sleep on this track. Available on iTunes right now!

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Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie xx-I’ll Take Care Of U

As the release date for their collaborative project draws nearer, we’re treated to another track from the highly-anticipated We’re New Here.

This has a considerably more positive feel than the previous offering, with Jamie serving up a lighter production that reflects off Gil’s voice with a positive exuberance. Lots of diversity in the production too, with keyboard melodies alongside futuristic synths, all served up over a mid-tempo percussion that keeps your head nodding all the way through.

It’s another nice show of eclecticism here, and I’m really looking forward to that album!

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Creep and Romy Madley Croft of The xx-Days

We’ve had solo material from Jamie of The xx, and now Romy makes an appearance with this feature on Creep’s newest single. It’s a great track, with haunting, atmospheric melodies created by an enjoyable blend of synths, samples and the odd pluck of a guitar, alongside an electro sensibility in the percussion: ticks all the right boxes as far as I’m concerned.

Romy’s vocals are as mellow, whispery and harmonic as ever, bringing some real emotion and melody to this track, which combine with the dark vibe to deliver a fantastic all-rounder. One of the better tracks from the alternative scene in recent weeks.

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Quick Blast: Gorillaz Cover of Crystalised (Audio)

Having seen the video (if you haven’t already, do so here), I think we’re all in agreement that the audio is a must-have. Damon Albarn and the boys (with backup from Daley) did a superb job on capturing the essence of the original, so be sure to grab the live cover version below.

Gorillaz-Crystalised (Cover) ft. Daley

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Gorillaz Cover The xx’s Crystalised

Lots of music to catch up on from the weekend. First up, the Gorillaz (with the help of Daley on backing vocals) come through with a superb cover of The xx’s fantastic Crystalised.

Damon Albarn preserves the smooth, winding feel of the original with this one, retaining a sombre tone in his voice and keeping the instrumentation very simple. Really worth a watch if you’re a fan of The xx/the original song.

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The xx and Nosaj Thing-Islands Remix

Interesting remix. Electronica powerhouse Nosaj Thing revamps The xx’s ubiquitous track, and adds a very dark, experimental feel to it. It’s an inspiring feat of creativity, as he incorporates very deep, lingering synths alongside echoed percussions and clicks to create an ominous and intimidating soundscape out of a once positive track.

It’s incredibly atmospheric, and combines the chillout vibe instinctively associated with the vocals with a slightly sinister edge to deliver a very addictive piece of music.

The xx-Islands (Nosaj Thing Remix)

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Kanye West vs. The xx-Touch The Sky (Carlos Serrano Mix)

This is frighteningly good. One of the best blends/mash-ups I’ve possibly ever heard, as The xx’s brilliant Intro is mixed with Kanye and Lupe’s verses from the iconic Touch The Sky. Definitely worth giving a go: you can stream and download the track below. Great artwork too!

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