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Reviewed this week: The xx, Rob SKelton’s Pitchfork with Mike Mauri, and Poppy Ackroyd

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The xx
Coexist
(Young Turks/ XL)

As the follow-up to the band’s Mercury Prize-winning debut, this sophomore effort retains many of the same characteristics that made the xx’s first record so successful. Pulsing beats, hushed vocals, and understated melodiese_SEmDthese tools help construct sleek indie pop with an R&B influence. However, this time around the songs have been shorn of all excess and focus on a calculated minimalism that allows the compositions to breathe in spaces that haven’t always been in the band’s music. Opening cut “Angels” sets the template. Featuring soft, twinkling guitar and the vocals of singer Romy Madley Croft, the track often lets silence answer certain lyrics, creating an intriguing tension that keeps listeners waiting with bated breath. There’s also a palpable dance music influence culled from member Jamie xx’s side career as a DJ between recordings. But this isn’t music for the club. It’s for the cool down after the party, or the long drive home. —Michael Cimaomo

*

Rob Skelton’s Pitchfork with Mike Mauri
Yeoman
(Lil Shack)

One of the last CDs to hit my desk in 2012, Yeoman may also be one of the strangest. Essentially a series of prose poems spoken over a bluesy backing band, the record expands aesthetically on work by seminal weirdo storytellers like Jim Morrison and Gil Scott-Heron. While the former’s musings tended toward psychedelia and sex and the latter’s toward urban life and racial politics, Mike Mauri’s cup of tea seems to be 17th-century Western Mass. history and the minutiae of hill town life, tinged with some radical sentiment and embellished with the slightly slurred speech of a man who sounds as if he might like to have some sort of still on acreage out in West Massatucky. Skelly and crew sometimes evoke a 1940s gangster vibe, providing a tuba- and trombone-powered getaway car that cruises, insistent but relaxed, behind it all. —Tom Sturm

*

Poppy Ackroyd
Escapement
(Denovali)

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