Post Traumatic Sound Disorder
In which Alysa breaks down an album track by track.
This week The xx’s new album was released into the world. I had never really listened to The xx before. I had gotten the impression that it was just more hipster-y music and I already had plenty of that. My friend made me a mixed CD of them and the Shout Out Louds. First song on it made it sound like The Smiths + Neutral Milk Hotel + The Cure= The xx. I loved all those bands so I don’t know why I didn’t keep listening but…. I didn’t.
Cut to a couple years later. My little brother is eighteen and is finally listening to good music. He is a music major at UCI, playing trumpet for the band and orchestra (YES THOSE ACTUALLY ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS). I’ve introduced him to most of the music he is in love with: Beirut, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros… etc. etc. etc.. I even introduced him to The Beatles. Anyway, my brother posts a picture a few days ago of the album cover (very Radiohead-esque) and talks about how great it was. I am intrigued. Maybe because I had nothing else to do, maybe because I just love listening to any music ever, whatever the reason, I looked the album up on Spotify and gave it a go.
It was nothing like I had expected. I was expecting some upbeat but sad guitar and keyboards with some wailing and maybe skipping through the album to find the three songs that were worth it. I was so very, very wrong ladies and gentlemen. This was on the same level with Portishead, Blonde Redhead, and I’m even going to throw in that it made me think a little Bjork too (not as nearly insane though). Let us take a journey together through this album.
Track One: Angels: This song was perfect to put up front because it sucked me right in. It starts off with a very simple and beautiful electronic riff and stays pretty simple the whole time, which was completely appropriate because the lyrics and the singer’s voice are absolutely beautiful on their own. “Light reflects from your shadow and it’s more than I thought could exist…. Being as in love with you as I am.”
Track Two: Chained: This song starts off with the male in the band, who also has a very pleasant voice. The beat is a little off which gives you an anxious feeling (good, not bad, makes you pay attention). The lyrics made me feel a little anxious as well. They had a tinge of gloom in them. “Did I hold you too tight? Did I not let enough light in?” A perfect feeling after the last song, a song that was about being so in love with someone that you believe they are perfect. This song follows up with us knowing that the romance didn’t go as planned and now there’s the regret of “Did I fuck it up? Where did it go wrong?” You start to feel that maybe this album is a story of two lovers.
Track Three: Fiction: The beat has gotten much deeper and more intense than the last songs. This one is exclusively from the male singer’s side. “Light” is becoming a theme in the lyrics, and seems to be the feeling of the story so far. The lyrics show the regret from the male’s side of the love not working out. “I know your face all too well, still I wake up alone”
Track Four: Try: I want to cry just listening to the male’s voice in the beginning of this song. The xx are very good at making you feel using just their voices. The electronic beat seems almost psychotic and out of place. Following the story, “Why do we waste time hiding it inside? I want you to be mine.” With the way the beat feels and how both the male and female are singing this together, it’s like the psychotic stage after the depression of a relationship falling apart where all you want is to get them back and you feel desperate for it, but you don’t want to fuck it up again. “And if we try once more, would you give me it all?”
Track Five: Reunion: The beat is happier again but then turns mid song back into a darker depression, still keeping the happy instrument but surrounding it in sinister electronic beats. Lyrics-wise, we experience them seeing each other again but feeling resentment instead of desperation. “Reunion, never not ever again.” They talk about light again: “There’s an end to us with someone else inside, you shine your light.” Maybe one of them moved on?
Track Six: Sunset: This song is very much carried by the lyrics, the beat being simple and in the background. It’s a back and forth between the lovers after some time has passed. “ I saw you again, it felt like we had never met.” It’s that awkward moment when you see a past love and you just act like nothing ever happened, whether it’s because of resentment or guilt. “It felt like you really knew me, now it feels like you see through me.”
Track Seven: Missing: Another male perspective song. The beat is very sharp and dark. A mind conflicted. Maybe the male is the one who moved on before and now he is regretting what he has done. “My heart is beating in a different way, been gone such a long time and I feel the same.” He wants her back but he isn’t sure if she feels the same.
Track Eight: Tides: Only vocals start this track, the man and woman singing together with more of an industrial banging as a beat at the start. The title of the song is a very accurate description of what this relationship between these two people has been. It goes in and out, always a back and forth. “I can see it in your eyes, some things have lost their meaning.”
Track Nine: Unfold: This is very much so a song about letting go of the love affair. The beat is still sad and distant. “In my head you tell me things I’ve never said, and I choose to forget, take the good and leave the rest.” We all know the feelings that this song portrays, the realization that you only are remembering the good things and you are making what was a bigger thing than it really ended up being. There is still the desperation of wanting the other person but you need to let go for your own sanity because the other person won’t give you what you want.
Track Ten: Swept Away: A very longing song, a lot of piano here in the beginning. Maybe these two have become friends in some way but it seems they still have feelings for each other, regardless of anything that happened. “None of this fades away even when you’re gone away, I’m so far away yet you’re so near.” There is a certain happiness to the beat in this song though, a very calm happiness.
Track Eleven: Our Song: A PERFECT END TO THIS ALBUM!!! This is my favorite song forever. It is absolutely beautiful and puts a happy ending on the end of a tragic love story we have been following. The music almost sounds like a tape rewinding to me, like they are rewinding through all the bullshit and back to them being in love. Their voices are stunning together. It all ends, it seems, more like a friendship than an intense romance from the beginning. More like they are mending each other and starting new. “The walls I hide behind, you walk through…. I want to mend your heart.”
THIS ALBUM WAS PHENOMENAL. I loved it and will continue to listen to it obsessively for the next few weeks. I hope you all do the same!
**** out of ****