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The xx with Austra at House of Blues


The xx just missed New Orleans during its 2010 American reception, choosing Baton Rouge's Spanish Moon as the launching pad for its South By Southwest victory lap. That spring, the three 20-year-old Londoners (singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim and producer Jamie Smith) were halfway through the most momentous year of their young lives. Seven months before, they issued a quietly seismic debut album, xx, that retrofitted an R&B dimmer switch to the severe, everything-in-its-right-place austerity of Interpol's Turn On the Bright Lights; five months after, xx captured the Mercury Prize, sending its authors into the platinum-sales stratosphere and framing their plaques in the Elliott School Hall of Fame next to fellow grads and electro-pushers Hot Chip, Four Tet and Burial. It's a different band that visits now, as the heat of discovery unleashed at that first show has cooled into the fondness of a known quantity, a mercurial drop that defines 2012's after-the-fall follow-up Coexist (XL). The silences are quieter, the longing longer; and there is no "Islands" or "Crystalised" (though "Chained" comes close). But Croft and Sim's tawny back-and-forth is colored in completely, and Smith — who in the interim became an in-demand producer and remixer for Drake, Radiohead and the late Gil Scott-Heron — builds cavernous, asymmetrical prisons out of every song. "We used to get closer than this/ Is it something you miss?" the faux-lovers wonder on "Chained," one of the album's few true hooks. It will leave you wanting, and that's exactly the point. Toronto singer/synth banger Katie Stelmanis, whose studio debut as Austra, 2011's Feel It Break (Paper Bag), deserves its own dark mythology, opens. Tickets $30 general admission, $75 reserved seating. — Noah Bonaparte Pais

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