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Alternative & Indie - Released February 8, 2019 | Polyvinyl Records

With Forget, Xiu Xiu delivered another fine example of their music at its most accessible; on Girl with Basket of Fruit, they return to their most challenging side, and prove once again that it's just as integral to their art as their dark synth pop. As on Angel Guts: Red Classroom, Jamie Stewart and company find new ways to describe and confront the horrors of the world. Even on Xiu Xiu's terms, the title track is a startling beginning to Girl with Basket of Fruit. Stewart's voice springs out of the abrasive din, shouting lyrics that shift from nightmarish to cartoonish and back again ("Her boob gets so floppy she uses it as a fan to wave away his sickening B.O.") in a way that only this band can pull off. As frenzied as Xiu Xiu gets on Girl with Basket of Fruit, the album isn't pure chaos. The band emphasizes rhythm in a way they haven't done in some time, whether it's the flexible backbone of longtime collaborator Devin Hoff's double bass on "Ice Cream Truck" or the visceral beats that Haitian and Yoruba drummers bring to "Scisssssssors," the album's most immediate track. Here and on the trance-inducing collage "Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy," Xiu Xiu borrow from dance, classical, industrial, and music from around the world in unexpected yet organic ways. Less surprising, but just as powerful, are the album's painfully vulnerable moments. Xiu Xiu's empathy rings out as strongly as ever on "The Wrong Thing" and "Normal Love," which provide aching respites to Girl with Basket of Fruit's outbursts. "Mary Turner, Mary Turner," a harrowing account of the 1918 lynching of a pregnant African American woman, serves as a reminder that Xiu Xiu's knowledge of atrocities isn't limited to current events. Affecting, cathartic, and unsettling, Girl with Basket of Fruit reflects that while the edge to Xiu Xiu's music has changed with time, it never dulls. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 1, 2009 | 5RC

Xiu Xiu's Knife Play is a very eclectic mix of neurotic indie falterings similar to the Paper Chase school of rock, but with lighter techno beats and softly morose ballads of indifference. The opening tracks are hard to follow along with, and after a time the album seems to break into techno tunes and finally closes with some calm, modern classical arrangements. The vocals range from incredibly bitter screams to strong, '80s British-sounding tones. Xiu Xiu has dissected their album in many regards and it makes for less coherency as well as a slightly jumbled feel. Guest appearances from members of Deerhoof, Duster, and Mr. Bungle can't seem to save this album from leaving the listener feeling frustrated and annoyed, partially because there's no fluid motion with the album as a whole, but also because there is so much tension and passion that Xiu Xiu is capable of, yet is not displayed properly. One can get the feeling of their skills on a tune like "Poe Poe," but the tracks leading up to and after just add to the general awkwardness of Knife Play. © Kurt Morris /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 1, 2009 | 5RC

Xiu Xiu continue to push the envelope with their third album in two years, Fabulous Muscles. While their mix of low-res electronics, flamboyant synth pop, and experimental rock sounds slightly more accessible than it has before, that just makes it easier for Jamie Stewart's confrontational vocals and lyrics to sink in that much deeper. As always, Xiu Xiu juxtapose their heroic doses of misery with lovely, if rough-edged, music: the drooping synth lines and chunky beats on "Crank Heart" and "Brian Vampire" sound like the music from some unspeakably sad video game, while "Little Panda McElroy"'s acoustic guitars have a hesitant prettiness that makes lyrics like "I can stop hating my own heart/I can do it because of you" even more intimate. Stewart either whispers obsessively or shout-sings, as if he's trying to drown out his own thoughts, and does both on the brilliantly morose "I Luv the Valley OH!," on which he vows, "It's a heart that you made/And I won't rest until I break it." More so than with many other bands, Xiu Xiu's music immerses the listener in the band's world view and the songs' characters: "Bunny Gamer" is an extraordinary portrait of yearning and self-loathing that begins as an internal monologue of an unrequited lover and then becomes a painful dialogue between him and the object of his affection, who is much more careless and carefree. The song's dead-calm desperation borders on the creepy and pathetic, but this is the uncomfortable territory that Xiu Xiu claim as their own. Much like the musical equivalent of Todd Solondz or Harmony Korine, Xiu Xiu set out to disturb their audience in pursuit of higher artistic goals. More often than not (and arguably more often than Solondz and Korine), the group succeeds. "Support Our Troops OH!," which graphically depicts a U.S. troop killing a young girl, could have been played for shock value, but the palpable anger that runs through the track is more implosive than strident. Similarly, "Nieces Pieces (Boat Knife Version)" explores a dysfunctional family with quiet contempt and dark humor rather than outright rage. It all culminates on "Fabulous Muscles (Mama Black Widow Version)" -- its effeminately macho title is yet another one of Xiu Xiu's dualities -- a mix of sex, violence, and sadness that features the lyrics "Cremate me after you come on my lips, honey boy/Keep my ashes in a vase beneath your workout bench" and manages to be horrific, romantic, and funny at the same time. Fabulous Muscles might be the best expression of Xiu Xiu's unrepentantly original music; even if the world that the band creates isn't necessarily one you'd want to visit all the time, it remains fascinating. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released May 20, 2016 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released February 9, 2010 | Kill Rock Stars

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Pop - Released May 1, 2009 | 5RC

After the expansive darkness of La Forêt, Xiu Xiu return with The Air Force, a set of songs that manages to be just as challenging as La Forêt, but sparer and somehow more eclectic-sounding at the same time. This time around, Jamie Stewart and company's explorations of vulnerability and ugliness-beauty are even more vivid; as usual, Stewart's breathtakingly concise, poetic lyrics are front and center. He captures longing and self-loathing on "Buzz Saw," singing "Your acne is like pearl/I swear mine is like brimstone." On the closing track, "Wig Master," he whispers, "Loneliness isn't being alone/It's when someone loves you/And you don't have it in you to love them back," a statement as devastating as it is true. Even for a Xiu Xiu album, The Air Force has a remarkable mix of contrasting sounds and textures: "Bishop, CA" builds dense cathedrals of noise, while the icy, bustling electronics on "Vulture Piano" suggest delicate mechanical wildlife. Meanwhile, the koto, violin, and piano on "Pineapple vs. the Watermelon," "Glue Stick," and "The Fox and the Rabbit" give these tracks the intimacy of chamber music. On the whole, The Air Force leans more toward the avant-garde side of Xiu Xiu's sound, but its poppier moments are no less challenging in their own way. Chief among them is "Hello from Eau Claire," which is written and sung by Stewart's cousin, Caralee McElroy. A simultaneous declaration of love and wish for independence, the song surrounds her with chilly, strangely innocent-sounding electronics as she sings "I know it's stupid to dream that you might think of me as a man...I'm not embarrassed to sing the words 'love' and your name," sounding more vulnerable and desperate as the track unfolds. Not only is it one of The Air Force's best songs, it's one of the best songs in Xiu Xiu's catalog. "Boy Soprano" and "Save Me Save Me" are also standouts, cut from similar cloth as Fabulous Muscles' "I Luv the Valley Oh!" The goal of Xiu Xiu's confessional, confrontational music is to shake their listeners out of complacency and make them think and feel; once again, they accomplish this mission beautifully. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released December 3, 2012 | Graveface Records & Curiosities

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Pop - Released May 1, 2009 | 5RC

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Alternative & Indie - Released October 25, 2019 | Postlude Paradox

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 13, 2014 | Polyvinyl Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released July 31, 2006 | Free Porcupine Society

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Pop - Released May 1, 2009 | Kill Rock Stars

Xiu Xiu is so expert at straddling the line between avant-garde and indie rock that they've completely erased it. On Women as Lovers, there's less of a gap than ever between the band's ironically poppy (but genuinely) catchy songs and their experimental, unflinching ones. "I Do What I Want, When I Want" opens the album with chirpy synths and hints of a cheerful xylophone melody that are abandoned in what sounds like a sheet metal factory; hooky "doo-do-doo-do-doo" backing vocals are put through a distortion wringer. It's intense, it's uneasy -- but it's also strangely immediate in a way that only Xiu Xiu can manage. Over the rest of Women as Lovers, Jamie Stewart, Caralee McElroy, and crew cover the spectrum of their sounds, from "No Friend Oh!"'s outraged almost-pop to "Puff and Bunny"'s broken, self-loathing gamelan. The band's approach is so well defined now, so cleverly honed, that small changes make a big difference in their sound. Women as Lovers has a rough richness that sets it apart from La Foret's fractured electronics or The Air Force's spaciousness: percussion and voice are the album's main motifs, augmented by strings, super-saturated synths, and caustic guitar. "In Lust You Can Hear the Axe Fall" crashes in on big rock drums, then retreats into gentle, reverbed passages; "You Are Pregnant, You Are Dead" is muscular and downright brutal, with a steeply climbing melody pushed onward by more massive drums. In fact, much of Women as Lovers is as bleak as its namesake, Elfriede Jelinek's 1995 novel, but Xiu Xiu covers a wider scope, giving voices to many complex and anguished characters and situations. As always, the band rarely oversimplifies matters -- witness "White Nerd"'s mix of rage and sympathy. Women as Lovers gets increasingly bleak as it unfolds: on "Guantanamo Canto," Stewart sings, "My country needs this freedom/To contradict your humanness" as synths overtake the song like an invasion; "Black Keyboard," one of several songs about children, addresses child abuse in a way that's extremely unsettling even by Xiu Xiu's standards. Despite the album's grimness, Xiu Xiu leaves some room for hope with an inspired cover of "Under Pressure," with Michael Gira playing David Bowie to Stewart's Freddie Mercury. Their version is faithful enough to sing along to, and has that unmistakable bassline, but the atonal brass adds more tension and urgency. It's a call to arms, especially in the face of all of the pain outlined in the rest of the album. Xiu Xiu's unswerving intensity is admirable, but it can be a lot to take -- then again, they probably scared away the faint-hearted years ago. Nobody else sounds like Xiu Xiu, and they've made themselves even more singular on this album. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 28, 2012 | Polyvinyl Records

Jamie Stewart and crew celebrated the tenth anniversary of Xiu Xiu's formation with Always, an album that sounds like the culmination of where the band has been and what they mean to their listeners. Indeed, Always is dedicated to the band's fans -- as if the cover image of a fan's Xiu Xiu tattoo wasn't enough of a hint -- and many of the best moments feel like rallying cries for them. "Hi" kicks things off with one of the album's most obvious love letters to Xiu Xiu's devoted, as Stewart goes through a roll call of the outcasts and the heartbroken, while "Born to Suffer" and "Honey Suckle," a duet with Angela Seo, both use synth strings and brass to emphasize their anthemic sweep. The band's confrontational, political edge was subtler on Dear God, I Hate Myself, but it comes roaring back to the fore on Always. Stewart's gift for boiling issues and emotions down to their purest and often most uncomfortable states is as brilliant as ever, particularly on "I Luv Abortion," which finds him at his most abrasive and baiting as he howls with righteous sarcasm, "You were too good for this life!" "Factory Girl," which sums up the unending toil of a Chinese factory worker with the line "you won't go to heaven, you'll just go to work," is one of Xiu Xiu's bleakest songs -- which, as fans know, is saying something. Overall, though, Always is a remarkably strong batch of songs even for a band as well-known for its dedication to its aesthetic and ideals as this one is. "Joey's Song" is classic Xiu Xiu, a duel between a gorgeous melody and caustic textures and words; "Beauty Towne"'s rush of lush sounds and bruised emotions underscores how much artists like Cold Cave owe to this group; and "Smear the Queen," a duet with a particularly alien-sounding Carla Bozulich, is a terrific showcase for how Stewart and company can sound horrifyingly violent and ultimately triumphant at the same time. It's apt that Always was made with Xiu Xiu's devoted fans in mind, since these catchy, desperate, searing, and searching songs aren't always the most accessible, but they show exactly why this band has such a dedicated audience. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 24, 2017 | Polyvinyl Records

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. While this isn't the band's most accessible album (that would probably be Dear God, I Hate Myself), it's still far less terrifying than its predecessor. The album's one truly pop song arrives early: "Wondering" is a reminder of just how good Xiu Xiu is at slightly warped synth-pop; though a less restless band could make a good career out of songs like this, Jamie Stewart and company put their flair for anthemic choruses in service of finding solidarity among outcasts. Elsewhere, Xiu Xiu sound prettier than they have in some time, and the combination of noise and poignant melodies on songs such as "Queen of the Losers" and "At Last, At Last" evokes the band's early-2000s work. The standout "Jenny GoGo" is equally spooky and danceable, with a darkly mischievous vibe that feels like it rubbed off from Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks. At other points on Forget, the band puts the pop back in popularizing as they recontextualize underground artists and obscure instruments, whether it's the carillon that graces "Hay Choco Bananas" or the brash vocal stylings of Banjee Ball choreographer Enyce Smith that add an extra strength and ferocity to "The Call." Here and on "Get Up," a fine example of the mix of melodrama and honesty that Xiu Xiu does so well, there's an emotional directness that may be the most truly pop thing about Forget. Of course, it wouldn't be a Xiu Xiu album without at least one gut-wrenching moment. "Faith, Torn Apart" closes Forget with performance artist Vaginal Davis reading a poem Stewart wrote about young girls sold into prostitution; when she reads lines like "my gaze is never going to settle/my smirk is a shadow," the cumulative effect is softly, slowly devastating. Dark and luminous at the same time, Forget allows Xiu Xiu to redefine pop in a way that's true to their volatile -- but always gripping -- nature. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released February 4, 2014 | Polyvinyl Records

Angel Guts: Red Classroom arrived just a few months after Nina, a collection of Nina Simone covers that already hinted that Xiu Xiu were headed in a more experimental direction than much of their work from the mid-2000s onward. Relatively speaking, of course -- even the band's catchiest albums, like Always, have had more than a little art damage. At the time of its release, Angel Guts was touted as Xiu Xiu's darkest album to date, though it might be more accurate to call it one of the band's most obviously dark works. Named after a violent Japanese erotic film from the '70s and borrowing musical inspiration from Einstürzende Neubauten, Scott Walker, and Suicide, the album finds Jamie Stewart and company diving back into their music's most provocative realms. The results could be shocking for shocking's sake -- and sometimes they are -- but Xiu Xiu still deliver nuances within this abrasive territory. For every song like "Black Dick," which brandishes its titular chorus like a weapon until it loses all meaning, or "Lawrence Liquors," which sounds like it's on fire, there's a song like the wearily beautiful "Bitter Melon," where Stewart wonders, "Can I have a face you can truly love?," or the majestic penultimate track "Botanica de Los Angeles." Even on "Cinthya's Unisex," where Stewart wails and growls "I hate everyone but you," Angel Guts rarely feels as personally harrowing as Xiu Xiu's earliest albums, and there are more than a few moments that could fit on their poppier efforts; "Stupid in the Dark" could be a more danceable cousin of Suicide's "Frankie Teardrop." Instead, the album's terrors have a more theatrical bent, like the squealing pigs that make "Adult Friends"' conflation of intimacy and horror play like a very dark joke. It might not be as haunting as some of their earlier work, but Angel Guts: Red Classroom proves Xiu Xiu can still make impressively intimidating music. © Heather Phares /TiVo
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Pop - Released May 1, 2009 | 5RC

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Alternative & Indie - Released November 16, 2009 | Upset The Rhythm

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Alternative & Indie - Released January 1, 2005 | Turn Records

Pop - Released May 1, 2009 | 5RC

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This double-disc set adds depth and dimension to the unique and powerful music made by Xiu Xiu, an outfit whose intimate, thorny, often harrowing songs fall somewhere between post-punk and experimental avant rock. REMIXED AND COVERED explains the package: the first disc has bands such as Sunset Rubdown, Devendra Banhart, Larsen, and Oxbow covering Xiu Xiu material, the second features remixes by Gold Chains, Warbucks, Cherry Point, and others. The combined effect is a testament to the strength, beauty, strangeness, and malleability of Xiu Xiu's musical universe. © TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released January 9, 2006 | Deathbomb Arc