Most fans of Xiu Xiu know of the background story of Jamie Stewart, driving force of Xiu Xiu, of his dysfunctional upbringing and his obsessive documentation of his life as a child. Those who don't can Google-search, as there is enough to write of La Foret,the fifth full-length Xiu Xiu album, without commentating on the life of its creator.
That doesn't mean that personal experiences should be discredited. An album as honest and chilling as this one couldn't be written without a traumatic childhood. At a time where nu-metal and emo 'artists' trade false negativities for platinum albums Jamie's gloomy and fractured meditations ring true to a level previously untouched.
"So will it ever stop? Will it always be this hard?" he asks during 'Bog People'. The fact that this is one of the most light-hearted and conventional tracks on the album shows the depths that he goes into.
Jamie's vocals and his backing band (because he IS Xiu Xiu) are the perfect carrier to these tales of uncertainty and peril. On opener 'Clover' he creates the sound of Jeff Buckley's Lilac Wine being spiked with a near lethal combination of LSD and morphine. ‘Muppet Face' is the track that British Sea Power would create if they were manic-depressives instead of mild eccentrics.
Elsewhere his mumblings (to say he sings would be a stretch) bring to mind Tindersticks, but the music remains intriguing and entirely spontaneous. Wherever calming atmospherics lie, screaming synth parts and snappy drums haunt in the background, ready to pounce.
Comparisons to early Mogwai could be drawn in the way that some tracks effloresce at what seems like random moments, and others never do, leaving you on the edge of your seat for minutes on end.
If I were to judge this album on previous releases I would say that overall it doesn't reach the level that Fabulous Muscles or even Knife Play reached. But to judge a Xiu Xiu record in regards to anything else, even itself, is something that should not be done.
Easy listening this amn't, but if you want a rollercoaster ride into deep recessions and to be thrilled by the sounds that surround you, then this could be the perfect album for you.
8Jordan Dowling's Score