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Romy of the xx Begins Solo Career with “Mid Air”

Already a member of a venerated indie act the xx, with Mid Air, Romy is staking out to shape the electronic scene on her debut album.

A Brief History of the xx’s Spin-offs

Few acts serve as a better time capsule for the state of indie in the late 2000s than the xx. Their self-titled debut neared the top of the British charts upon release, and spawned singles like “Islands” & “Crystalised,” with the anthemic “Intro” also doing work on UK radio. Their following two records, Coexist and I See You, easily eclipsed that commercial success, but it was the solo work of keyboardist and all-around producer Jamie xx that went the furthest in terms of cultural impact. His solo album In Colour remains one of the most well-regarded electronic albums of the 2010s.

And even with a long list of standout tracks contained on that project, two that remain time-tested highlights are “Loud Places” and “SeeSaw,” each of which features bandmate and vocalist Romy Madley Croft. Lead singer Oliver Sim would similarly break out on his own with his Hideous Bastard, dropped in 2022, leaving Romy as the sole member without her own solo catalog. Finally, that same year, the singer announced on Instagram Live plans to drop her debut. And at long last, it finally arrived.

Romy’s Mid Air Dazzles in its Opening Moments

Shortly before the project was released, Romy shared that the impetus for the album’s creation was the 2020 lockdowns, and the void the lack of clubbing left in her life. Over the course of the album’s 11 tracks, this theme builds to become the most consistent throughline on Mid Air. We begin in the most tender of places, with a budding romance on “Loveher.” Romy’s lyrics are almost puppy love-like, with the conversational tenor she adopts making it seem like we’re eavesdropping on her sharing details with a friend. A trancey heartbeat of a drumline drives home that emotional center, before slowly giving way to a full explosion of early 2000s dance music. Romy noted the intentionality in that homage, citing turn of the century electro-pop as a northern star in this album’s conception.

The innocent lucidity of “Loveher” starts us off with one of the emotional highpoints of the record, but that doesn’t take away from further explorations of romance we get succeeding it. “Weightless” carries that same vulnerability, but puts it to a trance backdrop, and “The Sea” harkens to Europop radio smashes with the hi-pass vocal filter laid on top, making the singer’s delivery here sound more like a sample than the main attraction. Speaking of, “One Last Try” begins with a similar prompt, tapping into those same pop sensibilities but throwing a tried and true EDM vocal chop into the mix to co-star with Romy herself. It’s a fantastic balance between uptempo rave fare and a slow jam, and it closes out the front half of Romy’s Mid Air on a super high note.

A Second Half That Enlists Key Collaborators

Following the brief interstitial “DMC,” we meet the first feature on this project. Fred again.., one of the breakout electronic stars of the past few years hops behind the boards for “Strong.” Released as a single back in November, the song is truly a perfect match. What Romy may set aside in terms of verse length, she more than makes up in the catchiness of the refrain: a mantra-like repetition of “You don’t have to be so strong / You carry so much on your own.” For his half of the equation, Fred again.. proves his mastery of the big room EDM anthem, twisting and bending that vocal section as he weaves from bridge to drop to breakdown.

Taken from @romyromyromy on Instagram.

“Twice” and “Did I” are up next, and bear quirks and twists on the electro-pop formula that’s worked like clockwork to this point. It’s the lyrics that provide the most intrigue here though. The former highlights the highs and lows that come with finally landing the partner of your dreams, while the latter speaks to a pattern of mistakes in that arena—”Did I do what I’ve always done? / Leave the room with the fire on.”

The stirring lows the singer experiences in the course of that two-pack makes the 90-second title track stand out as a narrative revelation. Over a bare, hypnotic soundscape, Romy delivers, “Moments like this rarely exist / I worry too much then I’ve missed it/ It hit me in mid air.” In closing, she and Canadian songwriter Beverly Glenn-Copeland swap a simple and powerful mantra: “enjoy your life,” which becomes the foundation for the upbeat and celebratory penultimate track of the same name.

Mid Air Cements Romy As An Electronic Heavyweight In Her Own Right

A culmination of everything we’ve heard so far, “She’s On My Mind” is what happens when the romantic rollercoaster Romy has been on meets the carefree catharsis she reached on that aforementioned interlude. With one more assist from Fred again.., the track is unbridled and uncomplicated joy. See Romy singing, “I’m so tired of fighting/I’m so scared to lose / But I don’t care anymore/ Think I’m in love with you.”

It’s hard not to compare Mid Air with her bandmates’ solo output—particularly In Colour, which she had a major hand in putting together. The latter album may cover more electronic subgenre ground in its runtime, but Romy’s project is resolute in its unified mission—to pay tribute to the sounds she grew up with while sharing every angle of her loves and losses. It’s impossible to not feel the same emotions that went into Mid Air’s creation when you press play—a feat worth celebrating and revisiting time and time again.

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