The XX - Mercury Winners 2010: The XX

Hugh Worskett 08/09/2009

Rating: 4/5

London-based four-piece The XX are still only flirting with the kind of hype any other young band of this caliber would be screwing unreservedly by now. And this reticence has resulted in a startlingly delicate debut that few will be able to resist.

Drumbeats are treated as an expensive delicacy featuring only if and when the sparse and careful guitar lines can't quite eek enough momentum out of a song. And on closing track 'Stars', the XX resist temptation until the dying seconds when a gentle pulse enters to send them on their way. It is the slightest and yet sublimest of lifts.

I should warn you that this recording is not of a performance. It is of two people complicit in their intimacy. I doubt we are meant to be privy to this at all. Voyeurs excluded, we should probably all leave the room and go find something a little more brash and neutered to listen to. But then again, thanks to some peeping tom over at the record label, we've been allowed this insight into the realm of the XX. And it really isn't something to be missed.

This record is unassuming, addictive and hugely involving. It is, I suspect, a complete one off and something no one apart from the band themselves should be allowed to have. It's a rare thing for any band, let alone a group of newcomers, to possess such a fine-tuned and all encompassing aesthetic as the XX. This is a meticulously crafted, beautifully understated and brilliantly delivered debut.

Release date: 17/08/09