audio / Highlights

The xx – “Sunset”

Let me start off by saying this is reportedly an unfinished version. Okay, now, here is a new xx song. They are a crafty little bunch, that xx—the songs they’ve released, preceded by “Chained” and “Angels,” have been a deliberate progression, a careful moon landing between their debut to the upcoming Coexist, out here September 11.

If the price for digital consumption comes at a cost, it may well be our tendencies for disposable behavior, but human memory is much more stubborn than its digital kind (source/proof: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). “Sunset” is a lament on the way we treat each other right after it ends, how we put up walls to cope by attempting to erase people from our lives, out of pride, out of ego. The song that opens “I saw you again/ It felt like we had never met” continues “What have you done with the one I love? When I look into your eyes, I see no surprise” to depict stone-faced lovers detonating with conflict while ignoring one another’s existence. Us humans, we’re a crafty little bunch.

Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim’s songwriting is noticeably more personal (“I always thought it was the shit we had to play these games” is not a lyric you would have found on their last album), with a bit of that distant, mysterious cool peeled back for the sake of openness and vulnerability, and Sim’s mumbling through some of the track’s more tormented lines only adds to the intimacy of the mental dialogue.

They can get away with these simple, almost weepy lines that are propped up by Jamie Smith’s deft, pithy production values in regards to tailoring the interplay of sound to word, back and forth forever in each direction. And “Sunset” is no different, in which he constucts a pool of mood to dissolve into, that starts at your feet and ends just below neck level. With help from Sim’s wading bass, it’s a full-fledged oceanic affair, at once liberating and gasp-for-air suffocating. A feeling of a complete loss of context, a single drop that could be swallowed up by Earth at any moment, it’s an internal, slow-motion panic attack triggered by the images of all that was.

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