Release Date: Feb 24, 2017
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Like a pendulum, Xiu Xiu achieves balance by swinging between extremes. Even by this band's standards, 2014's Angel Guts Red Classroom was so harrowing that it begged for an equal and opposite reaction. They allowed some light in with Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks, and the trend continues -- to a degree -- on Forget, which finds them reacquainting themselves with their pop side.
Despite being steadily prolific, Xiu Xiu's inventiveness in rendering touching music from brutal sounds and subjects is showing no sign of drying up. Forget is the band's thirteenth studio album and probably one of their most 'pop' to date, but Justin Bieber this ain't. Jamie Stewart, Angela Seo and Shayna Dunkelman's sound gets a revamp on the record, partly thanks to a number of prominent collaborators, including vogue ball commentator Enyce Smith, SWANS guitarist Kristof Hahn and drag legend Vaginal Davis, but Forget always sounds unmistakably like Xiu Xiu.
"Accessible" is a relative term. With FORGET, the latest from Xiu Xiu, it's a case of being outside and strange but somehow relatable, as opposed to borderline unlistenable -- it comes down to how long it takes singer Jamie Stewart to get under your skin. On past releases, that's taken some time, but with FORGET, it's almost instantaneous. Yes, things are less avant and more electro-pop here, and traditional song structures replace wild flights of experimental fancy, but it's all solidly written, and retains the band's edge, too.
For being one of Xiu Xiu’s poppiest and most accessible works to date, Forget is awfully concerned with death and its immediate physical aftermath. Whose death exactly remains a fluctuating and unstable variable. On “Jenny GoGo”, Jamie Stewart’s shivering, hushed vocals fret over what appears to be a recent murder victim whose fate he cannot process, whispering, “What have I done?” and “Take me instead”.
Ever prolific and avant garde, Jamie Stewart's ongoing noise-pop experiment Xiu Xiu follow up last year's chillingly excellent Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks with their thirteenth studio album, FORGET. A fairly conventional record by Xiu Xiu's standards, FORGET finds the band in peak form and Stewart's brand of dark post-glam vulnerability alive and well. Barring the unfortunate and unlikely chance that FORGET lives up to its name, it's arguably Xiu Xiu's most accessible record.
Xiu Xiu has always been a polarizing act, though some observations about the band are commonly accepted. Jamie Stewart's tremulous vocals can feel vulnerable and threatening at once. He likes concept albums. And he is a fan of lots of kinds of music--gamelan, noise, dance, folk, punk--which makes his arrangements wondrously varied.
Fifteen years into the project's existence, a new Xiu Xiu record comes with certain expectations. Tinny synths and drum machines will grow from sparse arrangements, reverb-drenched orchestral elements will weave into a tight-knit tension, and the composite product will erupt into a noise-drenched frenzy before retreating back into a breathy, close-mic'd quiver. Records like 2003’s Fag Patrol and 2004’s Fabulous Muscles helped crystalize the formula, matching Jamie Stewart’s indelible vocal gymnastics with a blend of hi- and lo-fi sounds as integral to the Xiu Xiu "sound" as they are rich with their own imagistic associations.