Music

The xx: iTunes Live from Soho-EP

It's not that the songs from the xx's iTunes live session aren't top-notch, it's that they're redundant renditions of the album originals.


The xx

iTunes Live from SoHo-EP

Label: XL
US Release Date: 2010-03-09
UK Release Date: Import
Amazon
iTunes

For anyone who has experienced the xx in concert recently, the iTunes Live from Soho EP is a bit of a disappointment, lacking in the energy and strong presence that these fast-rising up-and-comers have learned to muster on stage. While the well-executed tracks on the EP speak volumes for the group's chops in the way they can flawlessly recreate their fragile debut so proficiently live, the iTunes exclusive is mostly a redundant companion to the album.

Indeed, one of the most unexpected revelations of a band that continues to surprise is just how muscular and vital it sounds live, despite the mopey, art-damaged ethos and the quiet, intimate sound of its recorded work. What makes the xx's developing live act all the more unlikely is that it underwent its transformation as the result of an abrupt personnel shakeup, when guitarist/keyboardist Baria Qureshi left at the height of the hype, after a whirlwind CMJ publicity blitz last November. What did the xx do amidst the uncertainty and drastic change while preparing for its first extensive U.S. tour? Remaining members Romy Madley-Croft, Oliver Sim, and Jamie Smith reinvented the band on the fly as a power trio by necessity, rigging a bold and loud stage show that gave new life to their dark, simmering songs rather than reproducing the precise, painstaking aesthetic of the album.

While the live EP achieves no mean task in faithfully reconstructing the studio experience of the xx's breakthrough album, the iTunes offering is missing the improvisational prowess you never would have known the band had. (To be fair, the performance at the SoHo Apple Store occurred when the xx was on the cusp of the lineup change in Fall 2009.) Part of the problem is the "unplugged"-like atmosphere, which is probably not conducive to the heavy, earth-shaking bass and blaring guitars of the threesome's concert hall shows. A bigger issue is the choice of the album's quieter tracks for the EP's tracklist, which might fit the venue but also dulls the listening experience. Mood-setting pieces like "Intro" and "Shelter" are nice enough tracks in the context of the album when they're alongside poppier singles like "VCR" and "Crystalised", but they don't really stand up on their own and can't carry the five-track EP. Even though "Islands" and "Shelter" are among the band's catchier and most appealing numbers, there's not enough novelty to their live renderings to recommend them. In the end, the EP's average grade isn't for lack of effort, but for playing it safe.

For anyone who is more than a completist, the one track that's worth a download is the live take on "Night Time", which slowly and steadily builds up to a denser electronic soundscape that nicely bulks up the fragile composition. As it gently and gradually sheds its rote rendition of the album version with a quickened pace and dancier vibe, "Night Time" hints at what the xx might be capable of in the very near future, if the trio continues to add on to the sound it has already mastered instead of trying to recapture the magic. It's on those terms that the EP might best be judged, as a peek into things to come from a band that has already achieved so much, but also recognizes it has room to grow.

5

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image