A lot of fans like to dog this album. I have a theory for why this is.
It's not that the album is bad, at all, but that it's not the Elliott that THEY want Elliott to be. They fell in love with the man behind either/or, or the self-titled, or (gasp) the barely audible Roman Candle. They swoon for the quietness, the starkness, the nakedness, bitterness, intimacy. They think "hi-fi" is a four-letter word, not to mention "production", and dare I even say it, "pop."
They were willing to accept XO as a temporary stray from the purity of their vision for his career. In their forgiving state of mind, the music was able to seep into their brains and they saw its brilliance. Hence, XO = good. And, surely Elliott will get back on track next time.
Figure 8 comes along and dashes their hopes. Their beloved tortured soulmate actually knows his way around modern expensive studio technology - AND HE LIKES IT!!! Traitor!
Man, I love E.S. and E/O as much as anyone. Love em. Love em love em love em. But I'm one of those who believe that Elliott broke through into an altogether new plane of genius with XO. And Figure 8 is absolutely a worthy continuation of the path he was on.
Put it this way - if I'm taking ten to the desert island, XO is in the bag for sure. Figure 8 will be really, really hard to leave out. The others, I'll miss a hell of a lot.