Top 40 of 2016: #23

TSJ: I’d listened to this a couple of times and liked it well enough before seeing the xx’s Saturday Night Live performance of “On Hold” last weekend. Their energy in that performance (an odd word to use regarding the xx, I know) really seemed to open the song up. There’s something about watching the chemistry between singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, watching them play guitar and bass (respectively) against each other while singing, while mastermind Jamie xx controls all sorts of keyboards, electronics, samples, and percussion behind them. Significantly, that includes Jamie’s triggering of pitch-shifted samples of Daryl Hall & John Oates’s 1981 classic “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do).” Much has already been made of said samples, so I’ll just add that they really add something to “On Hold,” not just catching the ear but grabbing and pulling it, throwing a super-unexpected element into the xx’s proceedings. (And pay attention to the specific lines incorporated, because they matter as lyrics.) As for the rest of the song, it’s got the xx’s semi-patented mix of subtle drum pads, Cocteaus-esque chiming guitar, and Croft and Sim’s flawless back-and-forth talk-singing. This is a single that gets meatier and deeper with subsequent listens, and may well be the best thing the xx have released since “Intro.” Delicious. 

Loved how Alfred referred to Romy and Oliver as “like a Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt for the daze-y age,” too. Spot on. This is dreamy, and I can’t wait for their new album (out in January ’17).


About thomasinskeep

I write about music.
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