The xx’s Debut Turns 10

Some albums are forever linked to a specific place and time.

Ten years ago this month I was entering my freshman year of college in Boulder, Colorado. As it is for everyone, it was an exciting new chapter of my life, defined by its lack of definition: new freedoms, new ideas, new possibilities. The xx embodied all of this.

Released 10 years ago today, I remember listening to their mysterious debut album, xx, the day the it got Best New Music on Pitchfork, which I read religiously back then.

From the goosebump-inducing first notes of “Intro,” it was a sonic revelation. What was it even? Rock? Electronic? R&B? Like the perfectly timed demolition of a building, it imploded all the categorizations of music I had constructed in my head.

It was radical, and yet so, so refined. The passionate but detached vocal chemistry between Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim was reinforced by the give and take of their echoing guitar and bass. The cutting edge production of Jamie xx, meanwhile, transported the music to an entirely new dimension.

Enforced by the bold, minimalistic cover art—which itself became hypnotic as the white “X” spun on a turntable—it sounded like it was recorded in in the crypt of a black, futuristic pyramid floating through space.

It blew my mind with every listen. And it quickly spread like a wildfire across campus, playing in dorm rooms and house parties. I remember putting it on to see the look on my friend’s faces. I remember putting it on just so we could smoke weed to. I remember putting it on to hook up to.

It was personal and universal. Intimate and communal. Explosive and elemental. When I look at my record collection and think of college, the is the first record I will always pull out.