Tuesday, 31 July 2012

SONG OF THE MONTH: The xx - "Angels"

30 seconds into the lead single from Coexist, the music cynic that lurks in the back of your subconscious emerges, to usher in a sinking feeling. You haven't fallen in love instantly. As the track floats by like a single cloud in the night sky, you're waiting for that breathtakingly subtle moment to hit you, and when you're listening to the new xx song, the expectations were always going to be ridiculously high.

But then Romy Madley Croft sings the line "they would be as in love with you as I am", and the single guitar line, that oh so familiar sound soaked lovingly in reverb, warm and comforting, yet with a hint of melancholy, slides up to an unexpectedly positive cadence. And your heart skips a beat. That moment has arrived, and you are in finally in love with "Angels", and all it took was that mere instant to convince you. And it doesn't stop there.

Unlike a lot of the band's debut, "Angels" is not a song about sex. It's not a song that's trying to seduce you, or let you in on its lustful secrets, it's trying to explain to you a completely different notion entirely, and it genuinely sounds as if its the very first time its ever been encountered. With repeat listens (and there will be many of them for all of us) you can hear a clear change in Croft's tone, before her tone was subdued yet suggestive, her youthful dryness and disinterest dripping with effortless cool, but now, her voice cracks and shivers, afraid to soar, but not ashamed of the words she is singing.

The second verse brings along such trodden ground as "Every day I am learning about you the things that no one else sees", but Croft delivers every word as if it has never been sung before in pop music. It's no wonder that musically, it's the band's sparsest song to date, it doesn't need to do anything more than it does. Dusty percussion dives in and out, rumbling into crescendos that go nowhere, but its acts less as a rhythmical device, more as sound design. It is a heart jumping, it is limbs shaking, a mind racing; the drums represent the sheer impact of what Croft is so angelically describing.

With every listen, "Angels" helps you fall further in love with it, and the band itself. As Croft repeats "love, love, love...", and the song evaporates into thin air, you realise that 2 minutes and 53 seconds has felt like half an hour. Yes, expectations for "Coexist" are ridiculously high, but the effortlessness of "Angels" suggests the band have no need to try and meet these expecatations, as they will, and will surpass them, by default.

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