Xiu Xiu’s “FORGET” validates their unforgettable nature
The group’s latest project twist heads and wrings out every ounce of emotion inside of every heart. | Courtesy of pitchfork.com
Xiu Xiu has proven their intelligence and eclectic nature in the experimental synth pop scene throughout its existence to the point where some may suggest they have become too cerebral. Nevertheless, the San Jose, Calif. natives delight the masses with the palatable “FORGET” while maintaining its forte of dark yet beautiful grimness.
With “FORGET,” Xiu Xiu sacrifices some their moniker ethereal artistry in order to achieve a more accessible and electro-pop oriented sound. Thankfully, the traditional pop songwriting never comes off too conformist, maintaining an experimental aesthetic while cultivating the overwhelmingly unique edge the band has accrued acclaim for.
Jamie Stewart's distinctive quivers kick in just as piercing and confrontational as ever before on “FORGET.” His sonorous, hushed vocals with added delay and reverb provide for another collection of intimate dissonance only a vocalist like Stewart could accomplish. With his saddened voice acting as the perfect contrast to the album’s sonically exuberant arrangements, this album conveys vulnerability and fear. Tracks like “Wondering” and "Queen of the Losers" pulsate with feverish bombast, pulling in lush guitar arrangements a vast difference from their last full length album. These more vigorous tracks contrast with the warm synths on "Hey Choco Bananas" and “Get Up,” which provide intimate memorable moments.
Cohesive and tangible
“FORGET” starkly deviates from their previous albums, both sonically and conceptually. It operates organically despite the occasional simple-structure pop tracks. Its enigmatic, free-flowing nature does not prevent it from presenting itself as their most cohesive and tangible work yet. Comparably different from their last song-oriented album, “Angel Guts: Red Classroom,” each track on “FORGET” offers a thematic transparency. Xiu Xiu’s ambiguity empowers audiences to impress their own meaning onto “FORGET.”
Despite its lack of storyline, “FORGET” offers themes pertaining to masculinity, femininity and the exploration of sexual identity, all slightly veiled under a pseudo-political ambience. “Faith, Torn Apart,” the aching last track of the album, unequivocally clarifies Stewart’s purpose behind “FORGET,” through eight minutes of monastic chanting and an emotional poem written by Stewart and recited by famed transgender artist Vaginal Davis.
This poem incorporates Stewart’s descriptions derived from the photos he saw on “Backpage,” a website notorious for victimizing and trafficking underage sex workers.The poem has a vexing and insanely gentle aura undeterred by the relentless and violent imagery describing these exploited, once-innocent little girls. Stewart’s striking imagery and Davis’ unstable voice within this poem lend an eerie weightiness, one that eventually leaves the listener subjugated and crushed, which essentially encapsulates the essence of “FORGET.”
An exuberant celebration
Although foreboding and disquieting, this album manages to emanate an exuberant celebratory vibe. In spite of its provocative imagery, Davis’ recitation of Stewart's poem provides a necessary innocent tone for these victims, who cannot be forgotten as what they are, children.
“FORGET” celebrates being alive, in spite of its lamentable moments. But in the end of all suffering there is hope to keep pushing forward when standing in front of the face of both horror and in tragedy. Waking up every day and continuing to resist the horrors of life — this album celebrates the courage in living on.
With so much collaboration, varying production and thematic undertones, “FORGET” required many listens to grasp and to love, but it already has paced itself as an early favorite for the best album of the year.