Artist: Xiu Xiu
Label: Bella Union/PolyVinyl
It’s been ten years since Jamie Stewart first brought his lo fi, electronic based pop songs to the masses. From Knife Play to Dear God, I Hate Myself, Stewart’s pop sensibilities and experimental tendencies have evolved. Whether this was because of maturity or use of technology (Dear God utilized the sounds of Korg’s DS10 for the Nintendo DS), it still has a familiar musicality. Xiu Xiu recently left Kill Rock Stars to sign with Bella Donna and Polyvinyl, the labels that are releasing their new album, Always.
Always follows in the trend of simple titles that make one wonder, “What does it mean?” or “How does that relate to the music within?”
that are common on Xiu Xiu releases. I’m not going to spend a review discussing it because there is probably already a forum post about it somewhere, but maybe it has to do with Jamie Stewart’s ability to always make interesting music.
The album starts off with the aptly named Hi, a song about loneliness and self isolation. Hi’s relentless
dance beat sounds like it’s been put through an 8-bit game system. The distorted screeches and whines of the synths and percussion are a foil to the cleaner acoustic guitar. Stewart’s voice is breath-y and slightly whimpering which complements the morbid isolating lyrics.
Always has an orchestral sound provided by synthesisers, choir and horn samples and this is bestowed over
most of the songs. The wall of sound behind Jamie and Angela Seo’s subdued and effected vocals makes the music dynamic and creates movement. Though not entirely new to Xiu Xiu’s music, Stewart and producer Greg Saunier of Deerhoof, have managed to push the sounds and arrangements forward. Honey Suckle is by far my favourite track of the album. The poppiest and most melodic song which includes a duet between Angela and Jamie that has a jaunty musical backing. The perfect example of the orchestral leanings of the record. It may be the best winter anthem of 2012, the hook “I get up, get up but the day is ruined again.” seems to compliment my west coast life that revolves around trying to be happy in the rain.
Overall, Always is a good start to 2012 with its fresh musical ideas and juxtaposing lyrics. The ten years Xiu Xiu have been around seem to have aged Jamie’s song writing like a fine wine, which has helped make a very cohesive album. If the world ends this year like the crazies say it will, then Always may be the perfect album for our last year on this rock.
By Spencer carson