Something Like Sound

Tag: The xx

The xx- hip, minimal, appealing

by on Sep.12, 2010, under Album Reviews

Be sure to read this review in-print in the current issue of The Oredigger!

Every year in the U.K. a group of music industry insiders award the Mercury Prize, an accolade given to the best alternative album of the year. When The xx received the prize last week they joined the ranks of other notable British groups such as Portishead, Franz Ferdinand, and The Arctic Monkeys. To win an award is one thing, to produce a truly excellent album is another. The question is: “Is xx all that it’s cracked up to be?”

To determine this answer, it is useful to look at the context of music in 2009 as a whole. Alternative musicians gained more momentum against mainstream mainstays as the digital era really began to level the playing field. Songs from Phoenix and Passion Pit appeared in cell phone and car commercials and radio stations played yet another Vampire Weekend single. It appeared as though “indie” could be pigeonholed: just take a bunch of guitars, a synth, and some catchy beats, add 20-somethings in sweater-vests and serve.

Given this climate it’s not difficult to see why The xx stands out: rather than lots of bright, sunny instruments all they’ve got are a cool, spring-reverb-tinged guitar and a drum machine. Their vocals are relaxed and smooth- sexy and nearly emotionless- very much like watching fashion models on a runway.

For all of its soft, minimalist, hip dance songs, xx attempts to define “cool” and succeeds. What is so appealing about the debut from The xx is that the songs are catchy, but not cliché. Listening to “Shelter” for the 10th time is still as enjoyable as the first time, something that cannot be said of many songs.

There are, of course, songs that simply fade into the velvet-black tone of this record; however a handful truly stand out. Tracks such as “VCR” and “Islands” do a good job of showing why The xx deserved the Mercury Prize.

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A Statistical Survey of the Best Albums of 2009

by on Jan.13, 2010, under "Best of" Lists

It’s officially 2010! That means that we can all take a few moments to judge the art and culture that 2009 wrought. Most people come up with lists based on personal feelings, record fidelity, or any number or other random factors. Here at Something Like Sound I’ve decided to take a slightly more objective and analytical approach. Rather than compiling my own list of “the best albums of 2009″ I decided to perform a statistical survey on what other people thought.

A few notes about the statistical methods employed here:

  • The sample size was 35 lists, gathering mostly from local sources (such as Westword, Reverb, etc.). 35 is an important number in statistics because it is the lower threshold for large-sample stats. In all statistics more samples = better results. If I had time to do every list out there my certainty would go way up (but there’s simply not time for it).
  • Ranking vs. Points: Most other surveys of this type use a linear scale where a rank of 1 correlates to a point value of 10, rank 2 with 9 points and so forth. This is fine and dandy, but does not give terribly distinct results. Therefore, I used a point/rank scale based on an exponential curve. The steep, immediate drop-off of this curve provided results that were slightly more interesting. (See the graph of Rank Vs. Points below, with information on the resulting coefficient of correlation).

  • Most lists focused on “college rock” or “indie” records (read Westword’s description of the ambiguous genre here). So results are slanted toward such records. Sorry, there aren’t any heavy metal or country records on there.
  • To find more “best of 2009″ lists go to Largehearted Boy, they’ve got an excellent and comprehensive collection of lists from around the world.

Without further ado, THE LIST!

  1. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  2. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion
  3. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
  4. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
  5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz
  6. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
  7. The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You
  8. The xx – xx
  9. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
  10. Girls – Album

… and now some graphs!

Clustered Results

Clustered Results

Stacked Results

Stacked Results

To download an Excel file containing all raw data and graphs, click here.

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