Saturday, February 09, 2008

WSN Reviews: Xiu Xiu | Kate Nash

Washington Square News is back to its normal publishing schedule (although the arch is now fenced off, thanks to construction), which means more writing opportunities for me. This isn't the first you've heard from these two groups here, but hopefully the somewhat critical perspective makes for a worthwhile second look.

Xiu Xiu - Women as Lovers

Songwriter Jamie Stewart's musical experiments continue on his band Xiu Xiu's sixth album, which remains as musically eclectic and puzzling as the band's other LPs. It is obvious from the opening salvo "I Do What I Want, When I Want" that Xiu Xiu is not for everyone. Stewart's hushed, near-spoken vocals are an acquired taste. While the song contains pop elements, the unconventional blasts of noise and mostly unintelligible lyrics are distinctly avant-garde. The album only becomes stranger after this first song. As it continues, Stewart alternately moans and yells his way through fourteen tracks.

A version of Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure" is the album's highlight. Along with Swans vocalist Michael Gira, the song features Stewart's cousin Caralee McElroy on breathy backup vocals. The song even reaches an anthemic conclusion, which is extremely rare for the band. Xiu Xiu has recorded many covers, having taken on everyone from the Pussycat Dolls to Bauhaus, and their latest effort is just as fantastic.

Unfortunately, their own material is not nearly as accessible, and "Women as Lovers" continues to be a difficult album. It is fair to say that no one sounds like Xiu Xiu, but it is up to the listener to decide if that is a good thing or not.

Source: WSN
Previously: Interview: Xiu Xiu

MP3: Xiu Xiu - Under Pressure (ft. Michael Gira)
MP3: Xiu Xiu - I Do What I Want, When I Want
MySpace: Xiu Xiu
Official Site: Xiu Xiu

Kate Nash - Made of Bricks

Kate Nash is the latest in a group of young female singers from the United Kingdom. Her original buzz can be attributed to fellow Brit Lily Allen, who posted one of Nash’s songs on her MySpace page. After the success of Nash’s single “Foundations,” the release date of her full-length was moved up five weeks. It debuted at the top of the UK charts.

“Foundations” represents Nash at her best. Every track on the album is essentially a love song, but Nash’s biggest single explores the theme most cleverly. Nash wittily maps out a dysfunctional relationship using distinctly British language, such as “you’ve gone and got sick on my trainers.” She capitalizes on this success with “Mouthwash,” which contains piano parts that give credence to favorable Regina Spektor comparisons.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album never quite captures the energy of the first two tracks. But aside from a couple missteps, it remains quite enjoyable. “Dickhead” is as blunt as the title suggests, though not particularly interesting. “Shit Song” is a better take on obscenity. Its keyboard chords and catchy taunts make it a surprisingly appealing pop song.

There is a risk that Kate Nash may be another “artist of the moment,” destined to fade away as quickly as she became famous. Made of Bricks is not going to be immune to diminishing returns. It is inevitable that the listener will eventually move on. However, it is fun for as long as it lasts.

Source: WSN
Previously: Kate Nash in Amsterdam

MP3: Kate Nash - Foundations
MySpace: Kate Nash
Official Site: Kate Nash

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