After Love X Stereo‘s 37 series, the duo seemed to go quiet, likely taking some time away from the massive multi-year project. But while the band was quiet in 2020, it appears they were working on new music the whole time. XENNIALS is like a new chapter for Love X Stereo. It takes the foundation of all their previous music and moves it forward without catering to anyone.
Annie and Toby have built a large discography. With each 37 release, it felt like the pair were expanding on ideas they might have normally discarded. This makes XENNIALS that much more deliberate in each of the seven tracks. “Sixteen” is a wide audioscape that serves as the introduction. It’s a bright start with the xylophone as a main melody driver with Annie’s vocals coming across comfortably. The song doesn’t really carry a normal arrangement and feels like an extended coda while it moves towards “Wondrous.”
“Wondrous” is pure Love X Stereo. The synth intro that’s supported by the drum synth is what the group built their music around. It’s a return while modifying the tone. Love X Stereo’s music is very tempo and rhythm focused, but “Wondrous” is one of the early times that the duo aren’t in a rush to get to the climax of the track. The sweeping verses matched with the spoken word play counterpoints to each other and the consistent percussion in the background mixed with the guitar add the instrumental support.
Love X Stereo play with rhythm a bit more on “Push the Play.” It’s a mix of electronic pop and funk. The bass movements aren’t following the main melody, but actually serving as the main instrument. Annie’s vocals feel more soothed and less about going towards high register. “Push the Play” is like a palette cleanser. It doesn’t go in any extremes and comes across as a solid enjoyable song.
On “Rebel Dress” and “Kid From the Future,” the styles take a turn. “Rebel Dress” is a bit darker, mainly pushed by the lower octaves and Annie’s almost spoken word verses. Toby’s mixture of instrumental rhythms helps make “Rebel Dress” one of the most engaging tracks. “Kid From the Future” is almost a part two of “Rebel Dress” because it follows a similar theme. The percussion programming on the song has one of my favorite drum beats that’s relatively simple, but has a very distinct tone.
“Cell Theory” is the crescendo on the album. “Cell Theory” brings back memories from Love X Stereo’s earliest releases mixed with an electronic rock focus. “Cell Theory” also has a constantly moving bass line that attracts your ears very quickly. The feature with KIMOXAVI and bringing a hip-hop voice into the song is weird, but very engaging. The duo have differing voices but they raise the intensity of the track.
Naehyun Kim‘s vocals on “VS” is a change from his vocals heard in Rock N Roll Radio. He’s mainly speaking a low toned statement while Annie’s higher vocals counteract. Closing XENNIALS with this moody track was unexpected because it’s not the high energy closer that most people would expect. It’s different, but opens the door for other explorations into this soundscape.
Love X Stereo have a signature and that’s still heard on XENNIALS. At the same time, Annie and Toby shed a lot of weight on these seven songs. They’re less about repeating the same style and production again and moving into a different chapter where the music they produce and release is what they want to create.
The album is a new starting point and offers a lot of potential directions for future releases. Welcome to Love X Stereo again.