With The xx presumably just exiting New York City after last night’s sold-out Terminal 5 show (some video from which has already popped up here), and buzz surrounding their sophomore LP reaching a steady roar, it got us thinking about the band’s main appeal. Records with two lead singers, one male, one female, have a specific power to them that’s denied other band configurations. Romance, or more bluntly, sex, is the primary reason. It’s hard to listen to two people singing together, without imagining some kind of personal entanglement. The ways different groups play into, or against, that human need has been one of pop music’s endlessly fascinating aspects.
Accordingly, we pieced together 20 of the finest records whose quality is dependent on the interaction of one male and one female singer. Whether singing together, or trading off over a record’s running order, it’s cross-gender chemistry that makes these albums immortal. For purity, we’ve excised bands with an “everybody gets their turn” approach (so no Fleetwood Mac, no Belle & Sebastian, no New Pornographers or Broken Social Scene). More painfully, perhaps, we’ve even chucked out the Sonic Youths and Yo La Tengos of the world, bands whose primary man/woman story is complicated by the presence of an undeniably vital third wheel (Lee and James cannot just be photoshopped out of those pictures).
These are records of two people coexisting. In love, in conflict, or in something else entirely.