Album review: Xiu Xiu – Forget

From the howled opening lyrics to ‘The Call’ it’s very clear that Xiu Xiu’s latest project is a giant step away from last year’s Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks. Forget takes the project back into original songwriting, yet keeps the haunting atmosphere that they created on their last record.

From the leads singles ‘Wondering’, ‘Get Up’ and ‘Jenny GoGo’, it seemed that Xiu Xiu had gone down the route of synth-pop, whilst still retaining their edge, and pulling from the Arcade Fire Reflektor vibe. And these do have very accessible instrumentals, Jamie Stewart’s whispered tenor working nicely with the fuzzed out and modified synthesisers and drum machines. ‘Get Up’ is a particular highlight; perhaps the most upbeat and redeeming track on the record, with a simplistic yet infection guitar lead.

But for the most part, Forget moves away from the more accessible numbers into unashamedly experimental territory. ‘At Last, At Last’ brings in these autotuned, fuzzy vocals that float in the background creating a surreal horror-scape over abrasive and heavy synths. It’s a similar story on the title track, which once again utilises vocals to not only sing the lyrics, but become integral to the music itself. The song brings in these pulsating and driving keys that occasionally throw in some accessible breaks.

On the other hand we have some slower, tenderer cuts that don’t hold back on Xiu Xiu’s trademark sound. ‘Hay Choco Bananas’ is a blissful number; it’s electric bass line driving the layers of vocals and white noise over the top. Things get more stripped back on ‘Petite’ which simply consists of guitar chords, strings and Stewart’s vocals which go together perfectly. When we get to the final track ‘Faith, Torn Apart’, we’re met with this dull, crackling drone and Stewart’s quivering vocals, like a man stripped of everything. In the final minutes of the song are occupied by distorted, jangling drones, and a lone spoken word track which seems to be talking about appearance.

Perhaps the only disappointing moments on this album come in the first two tracks. While ‘The Call’ is a pulsating opener, but the rapped verses feel out of place and clash with Stewart warbled performance. The song ‘Queen Of Losers’, despite having a pounding rhythm section and explosive electronics, somehow comes across as perhaps the least exciting of the songs on the track listing, a real shame.

On the whole though, Forget is a decent record, showing that Xiu Xiu’s talent for creating haunting songs hasn’t faded, even after 13 albums. Forget has some standout moments on it that are uniquely Xiu Xiu; awe-inspiring, sassy, catchy and haunting all at once. However there are points that don’t quite work, as a result making Forget, not quite a classic, but a damn good album nonetheless.

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