The London trio offers dance music with erotic tension. The country duo star stumbles solo.
The xx, "Coexist" (XL)
The xx's 2009 debut was a perfectly distilled, carefully articulated stunner. The quiet songs by the young London band built on understated romantic longings, spare beats that owed debts to dubstep, and softly murmured coed vocals mingling with fragmented guitar and bass lines.
Not much has changed for the trio's highly anticipated follow-up; if anything, "Coexist" is even more spacious than its predecessor. The songs -- minimal, including the one- or two-word titles -- need little more than a few notes, a few ingenious beats from Jamie Smith (aka Jamie XX), and the intimate vocal back-and-forth of Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. They're full of erotic tension, sometimes ominous ("Missing"), sometimes eager ("Try"), sometimes frustrated ("Fiction"), always captivating. A few -- "Our Song," "Sunset" -- are so slight they threaten to dissolve, and the hooks aren't quite as immediate as on the xx's debut, but "Coexist" demands, and amply rewards, sharp listening.
The xx performs Oct. 19 at First Avenue.
STEVE KLINGE, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
Kix Brooks, ''New to This Town'' (Arista Nashville)
This is Brooks' first album since the end of Brooks & Dunn -- and the second solo effort of his career. The album's high points revel in the rambunctious attitude the Louisiana native brought to the long-running superstar duo. The low points, however, serve as a reminder why Ronnie Dunn was such a good partner for Brooks.
At his best, Brooks injects spirit and personality into country rockers such as ''Let's Do This Thing'' and the title song (featuring a guest appearance by Joe Walsh). But he falters the few times he tries to ease the pace. ''Bring It on Home'' is a well-written ballad about a man giving up wild nights in honor of the woman in his life. Brooks talks his way through the start of the tender lyrics, then struggles when the chorus and the end of the song ask him to show a larger vocal range.
Brooks, as always, proves convincing when romping through songs about life in the fast lane. But, on his own for the first time in more than 20 years, he proves he needs help when he slows things down.
MICHAEL MCCALL, ASSOCIATED PRESS