With English trio The xx, you get the distinct sense that each member is essential to the whole. Remove singer/guitarist Romy Madley Croft, singer/bassist Oliver Sim or producer Jamie Smith and it's hard to imagine their restrained and atmospheric pop sounding complete.
Coexist isn't a reinvention, but marks a clear step forward sonically from the group's much-loved 2009 debut. As on that album, the lyrics remain fixated on the highs and lows of relationships, a topic that feels a touch overwrought by the end. While the basic formula remains, Coexist lingers longer in the realm of sub-bass than its predecessor. Its low frequencies, irregular rhythms and slow-burning dance beats creep into the songs and draw us in deeper.
Madley Croft and Sim have become more confident singers, with Sim handling lead vocals on Fiction, a lonely ballad as alluring as it is bleak. It's a fine example of The xx's spartan approach to pop songwriting, choosing subtlety and beautifully honed details over big, dramatic gestures.
Top track: Tides