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The xx: Plenty of time to read between the lines

"I will give you me, and we will be, Us." The line is from Our Song, off Coexist, the second album from the drowsy English pop trio The xx. They make slow-moving music defined by minimal arrangements – icy spaces sparsely filled with spindly guitar lines and dry, intimate she-he vocals. It is for lone late-night travel or for lovers the next morning: somnolent, sexual, softly aching soul.

And it is all their own; nothing sounds quite like The xx, the influences of Burial, Chris Isaak or Young Marble Giants notwithstanding. "Space, silence, it's what we do," says Jamie Smith, the band's sonic shaper and multi-instrumentalist. "We're all subdued people. We don't separate music from our lives. The music is restrained because we are."

After its Mercury Prize-winning self-titled debut album from 2009 and the heavy touring that followed, the trio took a break from being The xx, but not from each other. "We went out, we hung out," says Smith. "The time apart was time spent together, but in a different way."

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The trio (which includes Romy Madley-Croft and Oliver Sim) brings its monochromaticism and insularity to Toronto's Massey Hall on Tuesday and Quebec City the next day. Perhaps they will share a dressing room, or even the same shirts. For The xx, you have to think – one size does fit them all.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More


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