This New xx Single is Kind of Underwhelming, Right?

07/16/2012 2:20 PM |

This morning, after playing it pretty coy for a couple years, British electro-soul (or something?) outfit, The xx, have suddenly re-emerged with full details of their sophomore album, Coexist, North American tour dates that include a previously announced and already sold-out Terminal 5 stop in early August, and a brand new single called “Angels,” made available. As the band’s 2009 debut was an instant critical smash that catapulted them to near-headlining status at every room or festival they are likely to play forever forward, anticipation for this new material is great. That their absence should be ended with this particular single is sort of a puzzler, though.

For reference, I should say that I don’t consider myself a huge fan. They always seemed pretty slight to me, despite the confident sexiness of Romy Madley Croft’s voice. (Upon quick review of “VCR,” the dude singer still sounds like a lovesick, or maybe just head-cold afflicted, muppet.)

Listening to “Angels” has me longing for the charming music-box plinking of that old stuff, though. This song, almost entirely beat-less except for a building then discarded ghost clattering in the middle, is barely a sketch of some deeply felt ache. It’s pretty, in a bare minimum kind of a way, but it’s also kind of a nothing, right? A passing puff of wind? A song in which an addition by subtraction production theory ended up eliminating a few too many components? I’m tempted to ask if I’m missing something, but with a mix so naked, where would it be hidden? Its undercooked construction will be praised for its “minimalist restraint” any second now…