The XX — Coexist 

The xx is the exception.

The English band’s 2009 debut, xx, is a modern classic, lauded for its moody and sparse pairing of R&B and indie grooves. “Intro,” “Crystalised” and “Islands” all made splashes, and The xx went from 0 to 60 like that.

So then comes the follow-up, Coexist, with the words “sophomore slump” surely hanging over their heads. Is Coexist as good as xx? Probably not, but it also feels unjust to call something this good a slump.

“Angels” is just as affecting and captivating as anything the act has done before, and songs like “Chained” and “Fiction” shows that The xx’s members are trying to move beyond being manipulators of aural space, attempting to become even more formidable songwriters. Let Rihanna give her own spin on the former, and it’d be a No. 1 hit, guaranteed.

Judged in a vacuum, Coexist is a brilliant stand-alone record, made less than perfect only because of its past. It has everything xx had … except the unexpected. —Joshua Boydston

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