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Breaking: The xx

December 2, 2009 12:00 AM ET

Who: Britain's coolest new band the xx, fronted by singer-bassist Oliver Sim and singer-guitarist Romy Madley Croft, who uniquely blend sultry boy-girl indie pop with austere, icy post-punk and dub grooves. After hitting it big back in the UK with their debut xx, the trio — producer/beatmaster Jamie Smith rounds out the line-up — was named the MVP of this year's CMJ Festival in October.

Sounds Like: On their debut, Sim and Croft's hushed voices come together with a me-and-you-against-the-world closeness — it's booty-call music for the indie-rock set. Smith's minimalist production matches pitter-patter beats with echoing "Wicked Game"-style guitars, and it renders the longing in their voices even more stark.

Vital Stats:

• Sim and Croft met when they were only three years old, bonding in high school because of their mutual shyness. "We couldn't even get up in front of a class to do a presentation!" says Croft. Sim studied harmonies on his sister's Aaliyah records, Croft taught herself to play songs by Hole and the Distillers in her bedroom.

• The band wrote song lyrics via e-mail, but when it came time to perform the tracks, neither one wanted sing in front of the other. "It was like, 'You first,' 'No, you first,'" Croft remembers. "So we sang at the same time." Adds Smith, who plays synths and drum machines onstage for the xx, "They learned how to talk together at three years old. Now they're learning how to sing together."

• The xx have already attracted the likes of Spoon's Britt Daniel and Courtney Love to their concerts, plus one audience member that Sim says, "if you'd told me when I was 15 that this would be happening. I might have had a panic attack." When they played at Paris' Point Ephémère earlier this year, "there was this figure sitting on a chair with no one else around him," Sim remembers. "I kept staring and thinking, 'Is that . . . that can't be?'" It was: Michael Stipe.

Hear It Now: xx is out now. In our Breaking video, check out the video for the xx's sparse "Basic Space."

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Song Stories

“Nightshift”

The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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