Xiu Xiu’s latest effort, Women as Lovers, is supposedly their most “approachable or communicative on a basic human level” to date, according to a label press release. This approachability, however, does not necessarily translate to radio-friendliness. You will certainly not hear a “Kidz Bop” rendition of any of these songs in the near future. Already six albums into their career, Xiu Xiu still continue to avoid classification (and pronunciation, while we're at it). Sure, the tag “post-punk” has been thrown around quite a bit, but this will only go so far as to explain the band’s occasional angular guitar attack. There are far too many other elements to this band for them to be pinned down so easily.
On Women as Lovers Xiu Xiu demonstrate a wide palette of musical approaches, lacking the sort of song-to-song continuity most album-listeners have grown accustomed to. Styles range from squiggly electro-pop to marimba-heavy balladry, and nearly everywhere else on the pop music spectrum. No rules are set forth here; a quirky cover of Queen and Bowie’s “Under Pressure” even makes an appearance. Yet coherence is found regardless; if nothing else, this sounds like a Xiu Xiu record.
The common denominator here is that of Jamie Stewart’s peculiar singing voice: at various times whimpery, whimsical, fearful, explosive—a voice which cannot go ignored. But as captivating as it can be for some, it has been known to drive more than a few would-be fans away. It is Stewart’s polarizing vocal quality which defines his band, but ultimately keeps them from breaking through to a larger audience. With Women as Lovers, Xiu Xiu continue to flirt with indie-stardom, but do not quite reach a level of accessibility to launch them into the major leagues. Fans, however, will be more than pleased with this delightful collection of songs.