During the xx's last press cycle, Kevin Lozano made a list titled "8 Songs That Borrow from the xx's Playbook," an aural statement of the London band's influence over contemporary pop music that included everything from the usual suspect (London Grammar and Bonobo) to the oh, duh (the Chainsmokers). But more compellingly, Lozano gives us the xx rulebook, as understood by its imitators:
The xx's sound is coy and deceivingly simple: wrought from minimalist bass lines, husky vocal duets, and finely tuned drums.
"Not Ready" is Saul Rivers' latest single, which we're premiering on Popdust, and it begins along these lines, down to the "husky vocal duets," where Rivers is joined by his musical partner Sally Greenwood, who joined him last year for a cover of Mumford & Sons' breakout hit "Little Lion Man." But unlike their pretty-straight Mumford cover, "Not Ready" begins with a thirty-second synth warble sliced by an antically fretted acoustic guitar. Rivers' voice drops over this and, to his credit, he doesn't sound like anybody particularly British; his is that conventionally New York huskiness, celebrated by Oscar Issacs in Inside Llewyn Davis. Greenwood, however, delivers a spot on Romy throughout.
"The song questions our ability to trust that letting go of something that isn't working," Rivers tells us, referring to the broken relationship his latest single chronicles. Ditto the glossy Jamie xx production which is a good marketing gambit, at least until the Chainsmokers make another go at "Don't Let Me Down," but conceals the traditional piece of Americana longing lying under the icy drum pats. More in line with two singers with a confessed love of Mumford's fictional family, "Not Ready" brings to mind something like "Stop Dragging My Heart Around," the duet between Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty that was a big hit in 1981. The most powerful element in "Not Ready" isn't its glacially whispered lyrics or its carefully plucked notes. It's the powerhouse guitar solo that Rivers slams down in the song's final minute, a burst of the kind of Tom Petty action they're missing over in London art schools.
Take a listen below: