Comfortable Reliable. The xx, Coexist.

For a band so gelid; so chic; so aloof, Putney's The xx have, perhaps surprisingly, always been the polar opposite of the sort of band to whistle up polar opposites, or indeed much variation whatsoever. If you've prior to this read reviews glossing over the reality that Coexist is, stylistically, about as similar to xx as two ice cubes may be, or if you've slid across hackneyed phrasing of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' and so forth then there are to be few surprises in store. For Coexist is more an impressive consolidation of an unexpectedly glittering reputation than it is in any way progressive, evolutional, or indeed revolutionary. The xx know what they do and do it remarkably proficiently, it must be said and indeed here, aside from Romy Madley Croft enhancing her guitar-caressing abilities but a modicum and Sim's voice somehow deepening yet further, all's well that was once well musically. Lyrically too, as Oliver Sim's lovelorn, scuff-heeled bass lines perform the unrequited, and therefore failed seduction of his counterpart's coy reverberations, it's a case of yet more adolescent woe. The despondency of Leavers' Ball rejection and its subsequent dejection as flecks of cruel disco ball reflection scroll across the face, refracted through the odd tear caught halfway down the cheek. Yet where The xx now excel is in their production. Of course it helps to have your own in-house wunderkind, but by all things Mercurial has Jamie Smith become something of an inspiration. A revelation, even.

Missing is an almost motionless trip hop lull capable only of showcasing Sim's most faithful Patrick Wolf impression atop the distant moans of Madley Croft and a faint whiff of dubstep wobble. Lyrical simplicity again predominates, as dual vocals creak and groan to the discordant tune of a discrepancy in feeling: "My heart is beating in a different way" says he; "Is it meant to be?" questions she. Query we: would it feel somewhat less disingenuous were there an amorous subtext to the childhood buds' lasting rapport? Probably, and certainly the breathy, quite quiversome intimacy they share – the sort only afforded to those that can more or less describe the inside of a lover's eyelid – has always left me feeling colder than it ought. "You leave with the tide/ And I can't stop you leaving/ I can see it in your eyes/ Some things have lost their meaning", they pronounce in unison on the segueing Tides and yes, there are instances within Coexist that lack definition in expression. That closer Our Song refer to anyone outside of this most exemplary pairing does nothing but perplex as they together avow: "All I have/ I will give to you/ In dark times/ When no one wants to/ I will give you me/ And we'll be/ Us." Now I'm no psychologist, but those seem some fairly mixed signals being sent out from that there phrasing. They sound like words lifted from the sort of love letter you vaingloriously hope its recipient reads when you're out of reach forever more; a solemn promise made beside the altar almost. It's wholly disorientating, which is arguably something the trio never achieved on the d├ębut.

Familiarity is key here, though. And if The xx never immediately seemed the sort of band to attract what was reportedly Bestival's largest ever crowd, or to trip the Putney Christmas lights then if we may now gaze back retrospectively, their successes were always more inevitable than they at once appeared. Their lyrics have remained accessible, and with that forever true to human emotion (love, loss, and the peaks and troughs to conjoin the two); their musicianship is alluringly elementary; their vocals effortlessly harmonious, with Sim's dulcet baritone hauled up and out from the pits of despair by Madley Croft's ghostily celestial sighs. There's as much comfort in their output as there is in their amity – amorous or otherwise. And now, at the second time of asking, the reproducing of all these elements is indispensable. So as Madley Croft chimes in on Sunset: "We act like we had never met" there's a double entendre at play – inadvertent as it may be – for despite this being an all-new effort, the similitude of this with regard to that borders on becoming eerie. Thus Coexist is, as previously inferred, far from a changed formula in most respects, and there's an undoubtedly calculated formula firmly in place here. But having previously released glimmers in the buildup – first Angels, then Chains, and finally adequate live recordings of both Reunion and Sunset emerged – much of the record already feels as snug and cosy as that holey, bobbly jumper left over when the ex upped it.

Therefore the only aspect to have you questioning as to which one it may have belonged to is in the amplification of Smith's role. He's been working darn hard in the interim, reconstructing Gil Scott-Heron's I'm New Here as We're New Here, spinning incessant plate, and brushing up on his production techniques, as well as his live percussion abilities. Thus although Try sounds a fair bit like indie schmindies Theme Park with Jamie doing a fairly convincing sonic impersonation of Kieran Hebden feeling woozy on Isle of Wight waltzers in the background, as with everything they pen it may be transmogrified into something all the more impressive if complimented by the sight of a dusty sundown. It's on Reunion, however, that he truly comes into his own as the pots and steel pans to have been used to clunk out Far Nearer return to bring a graceful shimmy to the softest of strums and their most affecting chorus since Crystalised.

The record begins to drag like leaden curtain once unfurled as far as Unfold though, Swept Away a tottery restructuring of both Shelter and their once mesmeric incorporation of ATB's 9 PM (Til I Come) into said song, and they really should've scribed another Intro, although otherwise there's very little to pick grave fault with. We're happiest with them when they're wallowing just so, and there's an unquestionable consistency with respect to that which they do. But is it maybe all a little safe? Should they have pushed things far further as far as Smith's involvement stretches? Probably, would be my absolutely subjective feeling but if nothing else, this one's living proof that The xx and Jamie xx can indeed coexist as though the reticent whiz were some superhuman being or something.