The xx's 10 greatest ever songs, ranked

17 June 2024, 14:09

The xx - Night + Day in Bilbao – trailer

By Mayer Nissim

With songs across their three albums The xx have become an ever-present soundtrack to the past decade.

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Jamie xx, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim have all released brilliant music under their own names, but it's as The xx that they broke through and recorded arguably their very best work.

They've released three studio albums – xx in 2009, Coexist in 2012, and I See You in 2017.

They actually formed as a duo of then-15-year-old Oliver and Romy, before Jamie xx and guitarist Baria Qureshi joined the lineup.

Qureshi left the group after their Mercury Prize-winning debut, with the trio continuing to release crossover bangers to this date.

From those early hits to their most recent singles, we've rounded up the very greatest songs by The xx.

  1. Say Something Loving

    The xx - Say Something Loving (Official Music Video)

    After the release of their second album Coexist, fans might have been concerned that solo work had ended the band given a four-year gap.

    But thankfully that wasn't the case: I See You was released in 2017 and easily matched up to what came before.

    Its second single was the gorgeous 'Say Something Loving', which borrowed from Alessi and Sade to make something disarmingly beautiful that perfectly blends Oliver and Romy's voices with spaced-out beats.

  2. Lips


    Not a single, but this track from I Need You proves that The xx don't need to "properly" release a song as a standalone for it to connect.

    'Lips' crept into the top 100 on the back of its appearance in Netflix show Gypsy, which also featured a Stevie Nicks re-recording of the Fleetwood Mac song.

    The show got cancelled after just one season, but at least it did the job of bringing this quirky, unsettling love song ("You're wearing my lungs / Drowned in oxygen") to a bigger audience.

  3. VCR

    The xx - VCR (Official Video)

    After the successful launch of The xx's self-titled debut album in 2009, the singles from the album kept coming.

    'VCR' was the fourth single from xx, and while it only scraped into the charts at a lowly 132, it eventually went Silver.

    It's a nostalgia-tipped track that looks back to a bygone era of tech ("Watch things on VCR") and looks forward to dreams of the future ("I think we're superstars, you say you think we are the best thing").

    Another gorgeous duet featuring both Romy and Oliver's voices, it owes more than a little debt to David Bowie's "Heroes", without the histrionics.

  4. Heart Skips A Beat

    Heart Skipped A Beat

    A non-single track from xx that proved just how deep the quality was on that album.

    A straight up break-up song ("Please don't say we're done when I'm not finished"), it stripped the sound right down to give Romy and Oliver's voices all the space they need in the verses before they combine so harmoniously in the chorus, despite them both singing about separation and longing.

  5. Angels

    The xx - Angels (Official Audio)

    After the massive success of xx, the question was whether or not the group, now a three-piece after the departure of the immensely talented Baria Qureshi, could repeat the trick.

    We needn't have worried. 'Angels', the lead single from Coexist, showed that the band were willing to push on from the sound of their first record.

    The album was recorded at the band's newly-built studio, which is when and where they wrote the lovelorn 'Angels ("being in love with you as I am")', having to revamp it from a fully-formed solo Romy demo into something sounding still like The xx.

  6. Islands

    The xx - Islands (Official Video)

    While some of The xx's songs take their time to unravel their excellence, 'Islands' is an instantly catchy classic.

    Another Romy/Oliver duet, and one that leans more towards their indie-ish side, though with enough going in beats-wise to make it stand out.

    It's a song that doesn't explore lust or longing, but instead the depth of love and almost comfort that comes from finding your soulmate ("I am yours now/So now I don’t ever have to leave").

    Reaching number 34 in the charts, it's also their (joint) best-performing single.

  7. On Hold

    The xx - On Hold (Official Video)

    Where Coexist repeated and pushed on the xx blueprint, you could argue that I See You was a much bigger leap in another direction.

    Its lead single was the incredibly upbeat 'On Hold', which starts slow but builds up to (of all things) a sample of Hall & Oates' bouncy 'I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)'.

    Dragging H&O to the ambient dancefloor did the trick for sure, with the single matching the band's previous chart peak of number 34.

  8. Crystallised

    The xx - Crystalised (Official Video)

    The xx's debut single didn't crack the top 100, but eventually went gold as it set down a marker for the band's early guitar-led sound and alternating Romy/Oliver vocals.

    Unlike some of their other turn-taking duets, the singers feel like they're in a real dialogue here, before building up to a frantic chorus which is intentionally less harmonic than usual.

    Towards the end it all unwinds and unravels as both implore us to go slow.

  9. Intro


    The (almost) instrumental opener to xx (just a few aaaah aaah aaahs) has perhaps surprisingly become one of the band's best-known, best-loved songs.

    Its beautiful simplicity allows the listener to project on it, which has helped it become the soundtrack to a number of movie scenes, adverts, and endless TV moments (a DJ dropped it just before the penalty shoot out at the World Cup Final in 2022).

    And while The xx weren't averse to a bit of sampling themselves, it was they who were sampled when Rihanna borrowed from 'Intro' for 'Drunk on Love' on her Talk That Talk album.

  10. Shelter


    The only song on The xx written and recorded without Baria Qureshi, who was soon to leave the group, 'Shelter' is a stripped-down masterpiece.

    While most of the band's best-known songs make use of their dual singers, 'Shelter' is sung solely by Romy (who wrote the lyrics all by herself, too), backed by the sparse, echoing sound of reverb-laden guitar and moody bass.

    There's not much in the way of percussion on the track, and what there is got there by mistake when a bit of guitar amp came loose.

    Birdy - Shelter (Official Music Video)

    "It was just like this missing piece of percussion that the track needed!", said engineer Rodaidh McDonald.

    Incredibly, the band opted not to release 'Shelter' as a single, which led the way for then-15-year-old pianist and singer Birdy to do just that, with the song being a standout of the indie covers collection that was her debut album.