The xx – xx
With a musical palette as minimal as the artwork and a live presence that bordered on the comatose, these four (as they were then - Baria Qureshi has since left) ridiculously young Londoners took hold of the latter quarter of 2009 with their beautiful, drip-feed pop. Centred around the loving glances cast between lead singers Romy Croft and Oliver Sim, there's a strange atmosphere that runs throughout the album, the listener feeling as if he or she is intruding on a private conversation. Musically, it's a skeletal mix of spindly guitar lines, atmospheric drum patterns and little else. In fact, it's so minimal and patient that when it does reach a relative crescendo or a shift in pace it can feel like the biggest rush. 'Islands' is as pacey as it gets, Croft and Sim exchanging coy lines over a pattering drum sound, whilst the album drifts into beautiful stillness with the closing 'Stars'. Taking its cue from acts like Aaliyah as much as the more obvious influences such as The Cure (at least in terms of their favourite colour; black), xx was the sound of youthful exuberance tinged by dark nights and lack of sleep.
Key track: 'Crystalised'