The Quietest Rock Band of 2009?

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 27 2009 11:03 AM

The Quietest Rock Band of 2009?

Eight years ago this week, the R&B singer Aaliyah died in a plane crash in the Bahamas. Six London rock musicians who call themselves The xx (no relation to


's sister

) have paid unlikely tribute to her,

her 1997 single "

" in a way that strips away the slithering funk and calisthenic beat of the Timbaland-produced original and transforms the song into a quiet, shivering swoon.

I have a soft spot for rock bands that speak softly—murmuring where others howl, tiptoeing where others stomp. The risks of the quiet style are high. Will the songs be so slight and wispy as to evaporate? Will they smother us with their precious delicacy? Will they fail to inform us fully that they are even playing? But when a band avoids these pitfalls, they can communicate a power and heft unavailable to acts that know only how to roar.

The xx released their self-titled debut last week, and it's available for order through the band's Myspace page . While you're there, check out "Crystallised," in which the clicking drums, mumbling boy-girl vocals, and pulsing bass line are so cleanly articulated they don't seem to occupy the same space except on the wordless refrain: The effect is of a band that sounds at once intimate and slightly alienated from itself. We can hear the band's Timbaland love in the minimal, asymmetrical beat pattering through "Basic Space," whose chiming guitars suggest the Cure at their most anesthetized. "Blood Red Moon" is sultry or menacing or both—goth make-out music of the highest order.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Over There
Sept. 22 2014 1:29 PM “That’s Called Jim Crow” Philip Gourevitch on America’s hypocritical interventions in Africa.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Dear Prudence
Sept. 22 2014 3:33 PM Killing With Kindness My in-laws want to throw me a get-well-from-cancer bash. There’s no way I can go.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 9:17 PM Trent Reznor’s Gone Girl Soundtrack Sounds Like an Eerie, Innovative Success
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.