The mood persisted even when, halfway through the show, Madley Croft sang, “Can I make it better / with the lights turned on?,” and the fabric walls dropped away, revealing the Armory’s vast drill hall, an acre of stone and arching steel struts.When she was eleven, her mother died, of a brain hemorrhage, and she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle and their daughter. “I grew up a huge amount in, like, thirty seconds.” She and her cousin, Lotte Jeffs, became close, but they rarely spoke of her mother’s death.“She dealt with it in the way that she seems to deal with everything, which is very internally and very quietly,” Jeffs, now an editor at the , says.The idea originated with Caius Pawson, a twenty-eight-year-old Londoner who manages the band, owns its record label, and acts as a kind of creative facilitator. ” He explained, “The first album came out of their limitations.“The sound, the songs, everything, existed before me,” Pawson told me. Their second LP was about them thinking they had to hold onto those limitations. Making them do things they fear.”Three days after the last Armory performance, the xx were in Athens, Georgia, to play at a thousand-seat theatre.After assembling in a windowless storage area deep within the Armory, a former military headquarters on the Upper East Side, ticket-holders were led through tunnels to a small, square room, built around a shallow pit where three unsmiling figures stood in near darkness: the guitarist and singer Romy Madley Croft, with dyed black hair in a geometric cut that fell over one eye; the bassist and singer Oliver Sim, a tall man with a blond Tintin forelock; and the boyish-looking d.j./drummer Jamie xx (né Smith), who stood behind a phalanx of samplers, keyboards, and percussion instruments.For fifty minutes, the xx played a restrained, audaciously spare version of indie rock with a pronounced dance-music edge.
After one performance, Kanye West told the band that it had reminded him of Steve Jobs, who “took something as big as the computer and put it in a cell phone.”The members of the xx were barely out of their teens when, in 2009, they released their first album, “xx,” a collection of muted love laments written mostly in their childhood bedrooms.I met with Madley Croft a few hours before the show.A strikingly pale woman of twenty-four with a quiet, slightly lisping voice, she was dressed all in black: T-shirt, tight jeans, and round-toed boots. The band’s members, all similarly diffident, resist defining themselves as rock stars—or defining themselves at all.The new album was another collection of plaintive ballads, but the band, praised for its spare style, reduced its arrangements almost to nothing; some verses were just a single voice over the distant whistle of one of Smith’s samplers. charts, but failed to generate the critical acclaim of the first album.Released in September, 2012, the album débuted at No. Some complained that it showed little musical advance over “xx” and suffered from an airless mood and fussy production—flaws that the band reluctantly acknowledges.