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Rarely is so much meaning conveyed in the space of six letters. And with regard to Xiu Xiu, its applications are infinite: always relevant, always provocative, always surprising, always evolving, always glittering.
It's fitting, then, that as the band (now comprised of Jamie Stewart, Angela Seo, Bettina Escauriza, Marc Riordan, and returning member Devin Hoff) marks a decade in existence, such a powerful sentiment would serve as the title of its latest album.
At its core, Always symbolizes the mutual camaraderie with and deep dedication to each person who has internalized Xiu Xius work, tattooed its name on their skin or soul, and throughout the past ten years made the band a part of their lives. The origin of these intense, everlasting bonds is Stewart. His fearless lyrics have given voice to life's most untouchable and taboo subjects, while his distinctively committed but hushed vocals crystallize and medicate their unsettling impact.
Those familiar with the band's work will take particular note of the times Stewart re-visits profoundly personal accounts from his own life -- most prominently on Beauty Towne (a not-so-uplifting postscript to the muddle of those depicted in Clowne Towne from 2004's Fabulous Muscles) and Black Drum Machine (which finishes the narrative of incest and molestation begun on Black Keyboard from 2008's Women as Lovers).
Elsewhere, Stewart's willingness to broach any subject finds him confronting both the topical and the intimate in equally meaningful ways: Gul Mudin seeks to bring comfort to an Afghani teenage boy murdered for sport by American soldiers; Joey's Song strives to do the same for Stewart's brother in the aftermath of a family tragedy.
Factory Girls chronicles the sexual objectification and desperate existence of Chinese female, migrant workers. I Luv Abortion, featuring perhaps Stewart's most unhinged vocal ever, careens through the resolute heartache of a friend too young to be pregnant and seeks to personalize this most political issue.
But while such writing is worthy of reverence, Always' most arresting moments lie in its sonic innovation -- transforming avant pop elements from an undertone into a bright black focal point while adding new influences such as choral music, kraut rock and animal field recordings.
Produced by Deerhoof's Greg Saunier (who also contributes drums and vocals to the album) and mixed by John Congleton (Antony and the Johnsons, Marylin Manson, the Roots) the album is positively vibrant.
During recording, Stewart saw a Bible verse spray painted on the wall of his gym. He interpreted the verse to mean, Horror and beauty are the same; love and hate are the same, the tireless dread of our own lives and of living can be embraced with the same fervency as what we find beautiful.
Composed of this essence, the album proves that perhaps the only six letters to carry the same weight as always are these: Xiu Xiu.1. Hi
2. Joey's Song
3. Beauty Towne
5. I Luv Abortion
6. The Oldness
7. Chimney's Afire (Mickensian Suicide)
8. Gul Mudin
9. Born to Suffer
10. Factory Girl
11. Smear the Queen
12. Black Drum Machine$18.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
FORGETWhile writing FORGET, Xiu Xiu released the lauded Plays the Music of Twin Peaks, collaborated with Mitski on a song for an upcoming John Cameron Mitchell film, and scored an experimental reworking of the Mozart opera, The Magic Flute. All of this frantic, external activity lead to a softly damaged dreaminess and broadened intent that has not been heard before in other Xiu Xiu works.Standout track, "Wondering" is one of the catchiest boogie pop gems in the Xiu Xiu catalog, but like much of FORGET, it still bears an underlying tension that manifests differently in each piece. FORGET was produced by John Congleton (Blondie, Sigur Ros), Greg Saunier of Deerhoof and Xiu Xiu's own Angela Seo.1. The Call
2. Queen of the Losers
4. Get Up
5. Hay Choco Bananas
6. Jenny GoGo
7. At Last, At Last
10. Faith, Torn Apart$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Dear God, I Hate MyselfThe two biggest constants throughout Xiu Xiu's catalog are honesty and evolution. This
remains true with Dear God, I Hate Myself as it delivers a look at responsibility, fear, healing, and societal roles wrapped in rich gothic pop music. The sound is still distinctly Xiu Xiu, but Jamie Stewart's vocals are finally effortless paired with vibrant melodies full of subtlety and the distinct sonic accents expected of this anticipated Xiu Xiu release. The result is a record that proves that art can be pop and pop can challenge you to look inside yourself.
Stewart is joined by new full-time band member Angela Seo on piano, synth, and drum programming; with production handled by Jamie and Deerhoof's Greg Saunier. Together they've crafted a fully-grown sound for Dear God, I Hate Myself with elements from Goth and pop that are expertly performed by a crop of brilliant musicians.01 Gray Death
02 Chocolate Makes You Happy
03 Apple for a Brain
04 House Sparrow
05 Hyunhye's Theme
06 Dear God, I Hate Myself
07 Secret Motel
08 Falkland Rd
09 The Fabrizio Palumbo Retaliation
10 Cumberland Gap
11 This Too Shall Pass Away (for Freddy)
12 Impossible Feeling$14.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Angel Guts: Red ClassroomAngel Guts: Red Classroom is the beginning of Xiu Xiu's descent from grayness into the deepest blackness endurable. It is the sound of Xiu Xiu's death.
This is a bold proposition, even for a band that has never so much pushed the envelope as pulled it (forcefully) away from the line other musicians are willing to toe. And now, in what is unquestionably their darkest hour, Xiu Xiu have lit the envelope on fire and are using it as a torch to light the path ahead.
Having spent the previous four years living in North Carolina, primary songwriter Jamie Stewart relocated to Los Angeles, moving blindly into a neighborhood whose notoriously dangerous reputation was unknown to him.
A park divided among four gangs, a lake routinely dragged for bodies, a building wherein two infant skeletons were recently uncovered -- the aura of his new home bleeds into every pore of the album, each lyric and note bearing traces of its essence: the terrible beauty, the despair, the violence, the ultra humanity, the uncertainty.
I know to a degree I must have romanticized it, Stewart admits, But when it's not safe to go out at night, what else can one?
Romanticized is hardly the word anyone other than Stewart would use. Like its namesake, a Japanese erotic noir film, Angel Guts: Red Classroom is as radical as it is inventive. The subject matter -- racialized sex, double suicide, double penetration, criminality, fear of physical harm -- is unsuitable for the faint of heart. But when the heart has stopped beating, only the soul remains to carry on. And here, Stewart transcribes his without boundaries.
Your face is down alone / On your desk / At the end of the city / You were squashed into / There is no one you love. So begins the album's first verse.
In the wrong hands, such topics could be rendered as far-fetched fantasies. But Stewart's evocative vocals lend his provocative lyrics the balance they need, grounding them in a stark realism that forces us to acknowledge their existence, even confront them (as discomforting as that is).
Unsettling, too, is the music. Working with only analog synths, drum set, and 1970's analog drum machines, Xiu Xiu has never before sounded so focused, so captivating, so intent on delivering a kick to the throat.
Though influences can be cited (Suicide, Kraftwerk, Nico, EinstÜrzende Neubauten), they are ultimately far less relevant than the mark this album will leave on other musicians and music fans from this point forward.
Take Stupid in the Dark -- its tone ominous and pulsing, its harmonies simple and direct, its grip unrelenting. Or Botanica de Los Angeles, a sparse, yet undeniably anthemic merging of bruising drums and bone-rattling bass synths.
Unbearably dark, yet incredibly illuminating, on the John Congleton-produced Angel Guts: Red Classroom Xiu Xiu continues to forge (and at times risk) its reputation as avant-garde pioneers. It is the work of a band unraveling to its core and exposing the boldness within.
Xiu Xiu may be dead, but its will is more alive than ever.1. Angel Guts
2. Archie's Fades
3. Stupid in the Dark
4. Lawrence Liquors
5. Black Dick
6. New Life Immigration
7. EL Naco
8. Adult Friends
9. The Silver Platter
10. Bitter Melon
11. A Knife in the Sun
12. Cinthya's Unisex
13. Botanica de Los Angeles
14. Red Classroom$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Japan 3/11/11: A Benefit AlbumIn early March of 2011, Japan suffered one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history, a tsunami which devastated its northern coast, and a nuclear disaster the scope of which is still not fully understood.
23 artists including of Montreal, St. Vincent, Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu, David Bazan, Joan of Arc, Owen, Casiokids, STRFKR, and many more spent the past several months entering the studio and going through their song archives to donate songs to this compilation in an effort to aid the victims of the tsunami and the negligence which led to the disaster that continues to affect Japan.
In addition, a handful of local bands from Champaign-Urbana (Polyvinyls hometown), Tulsa, and San Francisco agreed to be on the compilation and will be organizing benefit shows in their respective areas.
All profits from sales of this benefit album will be donated to the American Red Cross to support the International Red Cross in their ongoing relief efforts. Colored vinyl!1. Deerhoof - Giga Dance (Live)*
2. Love Is All - Pappas Tant*
3. Efterklang - Alike (Opiate Remix)
4. Birthmark - Big Man*
5. Kit - Brass Palms*
6. Shugo Tokumaru - Video Killed the Radio Star*
7. Asobi Seksu - Vicious Bears
8. Caithlin De Marrais -Sorry*
9. Alright - Moving*
10. Owen - Guest List*
11. Pele - Pequod*
12. Take Care - Living Forever*
13. Toe - Ordinary Days
14. Xiu Xiu - Hyunhyes Theme (Acoustic)*
15. David Bazan - American Flags
16. XBXRX - want*
17. Midstress - Too Many Shoes, Not Enough Feet*
18. Starfucker - The Wisdom of Insecurity*
19. of Montreal - Sex Karma (St. Vincent Remix)*
20. Casiokids - London Zoo
21. Lizard Police - Same Socks
22. Joan of Arc - Steady (Demo)*
23. Common Loon - A Moment in Energy Transfers
* Previously Unreleased$23.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Vinyl LP - 2LPs Sealed Buy Now
ReveilleBlue Colored Vinyl
Reveille is the perfect addition to any vinyl-lovers or Deerhoof fans collection. After the success of Polyvinyls other classic Deerhoof re-issues this year (Friend Opportunity and Milk Man), Reveille promises to be another quintessential Deerhoof release. This well-regarded album (8.5 on Pitchfork) will be available for the first time ever on 180g blue vinyl and includes a digital download code.
Deerhoof have had an amazing 2011. After releasing Deerhoof vs. Evil in early 2011, the band went on to play in London with The Flaming Lips and Dinosaur Jr., launched a collaborative 7 series (which included Xiu Xiu and Jeff Tweedy), performed at All Tomorrows Parties (curated by Portishead) and even starred in a documentary called BAND (directed by Adam Pendleton).1. Sound the Alarm
2. This Magnificent Bird Will Rise
3. The Eyebright Bugler
4. Punch Buggy Walves
5. No One Fed Me So I Stayed
6. Frenzied Handsome, Hello!
7. Days & Nights in the Forest
8. Top Tim Rubies
9. Hark the Umpire
10. Our Angels Ululu
11. The Last Trumpeter Swan
12. Tuning a Stray
13. Holy Night Fever
14. All Rise
16. Hallelujah Chorus$19.99180 Gram Audiophile Virgin Colored Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Dig That TreasureThis trio includes Nedelle Torrisi (former Kill Rock Stars artist, The Curtains, Why?, Xiu Xiu), Chris Cohen (The Curtains, Deerhoof, Cass McCombs), and Michael Carreira (music teacher). Every song here is a miniature journey, a free fantasia, a dreamy habitat built out of the minimum of material. Sudden rhythmic gestures and frequent key changes will leave you feeling pleasantly disoriented. The record is humbly inspired by the larger-than-life emotions of West Side Story, the joyfully percussive guitar gospel of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Wizard Of Oz's bittersweet escapism, the other-world sentimentality of Sun Ra's Spaceship Lullaby, and Henry Cowell's ethereal piano string strumming.1. Stop Watch
2. No Coins
3. Heaven Is Human
4. Water Witching Wishes
5. Shape Above, The
6. Cosmic Sing-a-Long
7. How Did the Actor Laugh?
9. We'll Never Dream Again
10. Dig That Treasure
11. Say You Will$14.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
REDI-FAK-4067xSole And The Skyrider Band
Hello Cruel WorldOn Hello Cruel World, Sole aka Tim Holland returns with the Skyrider Band for his first full length since the split with Anticon, and his third album with the Skyrider Band. While much was made of Sole leaving the Anticon empire he helped create, there's a refreshing, new found confidence and focus not seen since his now-classic albums Selling Live Water and Bottle of Humans.
For Hello Cruel World, Sole has assembled an army of the most exciting voices in indie culture to be apart of the new record, recruiting everyone from LILBTHEBASEDGOD, Xiu Xiu, Pictureplane, Sage Francis, Ceschi, and more, to create a pretty stunning tapestry that is a new high water mark in Sole's creative output.1. Napoleon (feat. Xiu Xiu)
3. Hello Cruel World
5. Bad Captain Swag (feat. Lil B & Pictureplane)
6. We Will Not Be Moved (feat. Ceschi & Noah23)
8. Home Ain't Shit (written by Pedestrian)
9. Formal Designation 134340
11. Progress Trap (feat. Sage Francis)
12. Vaya Con El Diablo (feat. Isaiah Toothtaker, Mestizo & Ceschi)
13. Villon$18.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Still LifeDawn Golden is the work of Los Angeles-based producer Dexter Tortoriello. He gained exposure in 2010 when his other (much more serene) project, Houses began getting wide spread attention. Dawn Golden is it's opposite. Influenced by everything from doom metal bands like Neurosis to avant noise artists such as Xiu Xiu, the songs pound with a calm, but dire urgency. The project began in Tortoriello's bedroom as an experiment in different recording techniques, and quickly escalated as vocals were added and ideas rounded out. Dawn Golden released his first EP, Blow, in April 2011. The effort, which featured standouts like "Blacks" and "White Sun," received critical acclaim from NPR and Pitchfork. Post-Blow, Tortoriello started recording albums for both Dawn Golden and Houses, releasing Houses' A Quiet Darkness in May 2013. During this period, he continued working on the songs for what would become Dawn Golden's debut LP, Still Life. The album was recorded over the last three years at the Mad Decent studios in Los Angeles.
Still Life is built around stream-of-conscious craft that explores the doleful voids of addiction, love, and death. Led by its first single "All I Want," Still Life gains its stark emotional perspective through some of the most unique production you're likely to hear this year. There's heavy exploration of sonic texture, and Tortoriello uses frozen cut-ups and creative vocal editing to flip a traditionally-futuristic sound into something that oozes feeling.1. Discoloration
2. All I Want
3. Sleight Orchestra
4. I Won't Bend
6. The Beekeeper
7. Still Life
9. Last Train
10. Brief Encounter$19.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Yellow & GreenBaroness, the Savannah-based quartet whose two prior releases (Red Album and Blue Record) were awarded record of the year honors from both Revolver and Decibel Magazines as well as repeatedly placing on year-end best of lists from Pitchfork and Village Voice, return with a new album titled Yellow & Green which will be released via Relapse Records.
Yellow & Green reunites Baroness with Blue Record producer John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, St. Vincent, Xiu Xiu) following both the band's busiest period (multiple worldwide tours including stops at Coachella, Bonnaroo and Soundwave) and most luxurious year, having taken nearly all of 2011 off to freely write and demo material for their newest offering.
Yellow & Green finds the band as more than just giants of the metal underground, but now fully formed hard rock titans. Fans of the band have come to expect nothing less than constant evolution from Baroness and that is precisely what the band has delivered, but in ways no one could have anticipated: the hooks are immediately seared into your brain, riffs that take just one listen to fully lodge themselves in your consciousness and vocals that are sung both heavily and beautifully.
Some songs are more delicate than Baroness ever hinted at before while others are straight up arena rockers, yet all along Yellow & Green is unmistakingly the Baroness that the world has come to love and look to for Record of the Year quality rock and roll. It's not hard to imagine any one of the 18 songs that fill out Yellow & Green being rock radio anthems, and deservedly so.LP1
1. Yellow Theme
2. Take My Bones Away
3. March to the Sea
4. Little Things
7. Black Where I Belong
8. Sea Lungs
1. Green Theme
2. Board Up the House
3. Mtns. (The Crown & Anchor)
6. Psalms Alive
8. The Line Between
9. If I Forgot Thee, Lowcountry$24.99Vinyl LP - 2 LPs Sealed Buy Now
Fellow TravelersFellow Travelers wasn't supposed to be a full-length record, so I'm
a little surprised to admit that it's my favorite Shearwater album so
far. It was meant to be a small thing to release between Animal Joy
and the next full-length. But it took on a life of its own. Re-imagining
and renovating songs by the bands we've toured with was like leafing
through a scrapbook, and brought back the highs and lows of a
decade of touring.
Touring is an expression of faith - in yourself, in your friends, in the
hope that the world has a place for you. In that spirit, I invited all the
bands we covered to play on Fellow Travelers, with the caveat that you
couldn't play on your own song. Almost everyone rose to the bait: Chris
from the Baptist Generals turned Clinic's "Tomorrow" into a stomping
incantation, while Clinic infected the Generals' "Fucked Up Life" with
drum machines, radio signals, and combo organ. I added recordings I
made of birds and waves in the Falklands to David Thomas Broughton's
"Ambiguity," and he sent us a tape he made of sparrows, bulbuls, and
the clanking shovels of highway workers in Pyongyang, North Korea,
which we spliced into our rock-anthem version of Xiu Xiu's "I Luv the
Valley OH!!" And Jenn from Wye Oak, who, like us, had also toured with
Lou B, added vocals to "Natural One."
Leon Trotsky, who gave the words "fellow travelers" their political aura,
once wrote that "a protest against reality, either conscious or unconscious,
active or passive, optimistic or pessimistic, always forms part of a really
creative piece of work." Listening back, I get a feeling of common effort,
of common purpose, among all of our different musical paths; we've all
tried to defy or transform reality in small ways with our music, and to
prove it with our performing lives.
- Jonathan Meiburg, NYC, March 20131. Our Only Sun
2. I Luv the Valley OH!
3. Hurts Like Heaven
4. Natural One
8. A Wake for the Minotaur
9. Mary is Mary
10. Fucked Up Life$15.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now
Love Comes CloseLove Comes Close is the debut full-length from Philly/New York quartet Cold Cave. Matador is now reissuing the instantly sold-out self-released album from August of 2009. The warm, rich synth pop sounds are laced with equal measures of romance and nihilism and somewhere in these realms of negative hiss and out-of-body bliss, there is a peak awaiting all who enter. Singer/keyboardist/songwriter Wesley Eisold is joined by Caralee McElroy (ex-Xiu Xiu), Dominick Fernow (Prurient) and Sarah Lipstate (ex-Parts & Labor, Noveller). Eisold himself served time with hardcore punk legends American Nightmare/Give Up The Ghost and Some Girls.1. Cebe And Me
2. Love Comes Close
3. Life Magazine
4. The Laurels Of Erotomania
5. Heaven Was Full
6. The Trees Grew Emotions And Died
7. Hello Rats
8. Youth And Lust
9. I.C.D.K.$18.99Vinyl LP - Sealed Buy Now