wed 21/03/2018

Albums of the Year: Xylaroo - Sweetooth | reviews, news & interviews

Albums of the Year: Xylaroo - Sweetooth

Albums of the Year: Xylaroo - Sweetooth

Exquisite doomed loveliness for troubled times

A kaleidoscopic swirl of Chant sisters

As the late Leonard Cohen once growled, “Everybody knows that the war is over/Everybody knows that the good guys lost.” That’s how 2016 felt. Perhaps the moment that encapsulated my year was standing in a very muddy Somerset field, two days after the Brexit disaster, part of an exhausted but defiant Sunday night crowd, singing along with LCD Soundsystem for all we were worth; “So it’s us versus them, over and over again.” That repeating chorus, circling and circling, summing it all up.

In 2016 the scales tipped when we weren’t looking. The “good guys” suddenly became the minority. Meanwhile, short-sighted, misguided powers drag the gullible, the self-serving and the unfortunate rest of us slowly towards catastrophe. Music has, as ever, been a salve and an impetus. The mainstream may now be dominated by the predictable (NB: a few grime artists rapping on sappy pop songs does not constitute a protest movement), but in strange nooks and crannies brilliance thrives.

The self-titled debut from Californian metallers Eerie boasts an eye-boggling, dodgy cover but contains grungey psyched hard rock that brooks no argument, Croatian techno producer Petar Dundov’s At The Turn of Equilibrium is a delicious retro-synth adventure, the opening shot from Polly Scattergood and James Chapman's On Dead Waves project gorgeously musters Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood by way of the Jesus & Mary Chain, and Beyoncé’s sometimes bitter Lemonade proves there’s a place for invigorating imagination in hyper-commercial pop.

However, the album that dominated my year is by two well-travelled sisters from London, Holly and Coco Chant, AKA Xylaroo, whose debut, Sweetooth, is a smörgåsbord of delicious harmonizing, strummed, campfire girl-pop run through to its core with doomed mysticism perfectly attuned to these dangerous times. It’s an album that's at once optimistic and bleakly hedonistic, containing philosophical poetry worthy of mighty old Leonard Cohen himself, while also capable of lightness and even humour (as on the smile-inducing “Narwhal”).

In another age Sweetooth would have been as massive as Joni Mitchell or Johnny Cash, but instead, it exists in the peripheries, waiting to be found, a gem weighted with subconcsious prescience of the darkness to come. Not just an album for 2016, but an album of the century so far.

Two More Essential Albums from 2016

Beyoncé - Lemonade

Eerie - Eerie

Gig of the Year

LCD Soundsystem at Glastonbury Festival

Track of the Year

Yeasayer - "I Am Chemistry"

Overleaf: atch the video for “I Am Chemistry” by Yeasayer

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters