Album Review: The xx - Coexist

A much-awaited album was set to be released in 2012: The xx's second studio record, called ‘Coexist'. It carried big expectations following their very successful debut album ‘XX' (2009), which brought fresh air to the alternative music scene and influenced many artists to come (like Alt-J, whose own album review you can read here).

The band's trademark playing style is definitely minimalist: Jamie Smith & co managed with just a few instruments and simple electronic beats to create a great chill-out atmosphere in each of their old tracks, using low-tone vocals which gave the listener many reasons to keep thinking, sometimes for hours, about the lyrics and the whole meaning of the songs.

However, it seems that with ‘Coexist' this approach has become a little bit excessive, and their melodies are not as interesting as they were.

Beats sometimes keep on playing for minutes without any real aim, without any really bright spark. The vocals do not provide any further interest - making it very difficult to get the messages of many songs, which remain completely hidden and leave the listener with some reasonable doubts ('Tides', ‘Reunion', ‘Our Song').

Book Review: ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ – Jared Diamond

Some time ago, while still in Italy, one of my assignments for the ‘Philosophy of Science' course was reading ‘Guns, Germs and Steel' by Jared Diamond- a physiology and geography professor at UCLA. The size was not promising, at all, but the content was anything but boring.

The book opens with Diamond describing his meeting with a New Guinean tribe chief who, whilst they were walking on a beach, asked him: "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?".

With the word ‘cargo' meaning ‘material goods', the question gains a huge reach in the professor's mind. So, reformulating it, the question is: "How and why have all these differences between groups of people developed?". It is a really big question that some people have preferred to avoid by labeling others as ‘inferior' giving a start to racist theories, which Diamond wants to disprove with his whole argumentation.

The title may mislead the reader, the main argument is not about war or anything similar. ‘Guns, germs and steel' are actually the closest reasons why some groups of people throughout the world are more developed than others. It might seem rather obvious, but these are just the closest reasons.

Album Review: Alt-J – An Awesome Wave (2012)

A few months ago a friend strongly recommended me to listen to a music album called ‘An Awesome Wave', by debuting Cambridge-native band Alt-J. It took me some time to take his advice, but it eventually turned up as one of the best musical choices I have ever made.

The first listen may not be so exciting. It can seem like you are listening to an alternative-indie band with a very soft and comforting sound, but which doesn't stand out from the whole bunch of rather experimental emerging groups who have tried to succeed over the last few years with their debut albums. Luckily I decided to listen to it a little bit more patiently - always give music a second chance - and this time it didn't disappoint.

The first track ‘Intro' gets the listener into the atmosphere of ‘An Awesome Wave' (the album's name) which will rise through the whole record - vocals "One, two, three...Yeaaaah!" make it even more chilling -, before ending with the very intimate song ‘Taro', where the tide lowers and good vibes reach their peak.

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