Few bands have greater pressure to conquer the sophomore slump this year than the xx, whose 2009 debut “xx” set trends and won awards. But on “Coexist,” the group gives its stripped-down, R&B-tinged pop even more room to breathe, which allows for a comfortable atmosphere but fewer sparks. Now a trio after the departure of guitarist/keyboardist Baria Qureshi, the xx seems to savor its resources, allowing no superfluous sound, word, or beat. Echoing drops of guitar and distant drum snaps provide a divine backdrop for vocalist Romy Madley Croft’s haunting adoration on opener “Angels.” But songs like “Sunset” and “Unfold” never quite catch, despite yearning interplay between Croft and co-vocalist Oliver Sim. There’s also less playfulness this time, though Jamie Smith’s club-inspired beats keep “Coexist” moving at its own moody pace. There’s enough ingenuity on “Coexist” to remind us why the xx was a game-changer three years ago; with any luck it will end up a blip on a resume of more inspiring releases. (Out Tuesday)
The xx performs at the House of Blues on Oct. 25.