Sunday, August 14, 2005

Xiu Xiu / La Forêt / Rating 7.9

I was 16 the first time I heard Lee Hazlewood sing It’s dark, dark, in my heart” I wasn’t sure what it meant at the time but the phrase stuck with me. I grew older and with that the obvious happened. Life happened. I buried too many friends and family before their time, watched wars unfold I didn’t believe in, removed a wedding band for good, held hands with terminal diseases, accepted a president I didn’t vote for, gone steady with chemical dependency, clung to crap jobs for insurance and a nest egg… the list could go on forever. We each have a version of this list and whoever says life is easy is taking way better pills then the rest of us. The complexities and specifics to each of our lives connects and separates but the emotions they catalyze help to define the human experience AKA life.

At age thirty something, “Dark in my Heart”? Check.

Xiu Xiu does bleak but not in a way I can compare to any of the legendary grim reapers like Billie Holiday, Jeff Buckley, Porter Wagoner, Nick Drake, Elliott Smith or the like. These artists weave sad tales but within a more traditional song structure and with traditional instruments. For those familiar with musician Arthur Russell you might have a sense of music so personal it resonates like a diary you shouldn’t be reading and this is much closer to La Forêt’s tragic sting. Modern classical pieces dabbling in the avante-pop, Xiu Xiu chokes, whispers, and bellows sentiments using the human voice and an unlikely chorus of instruments to transmit tears.

La Forêt’s hits with the same hurt and memory rush I get while looking at photos of people I loved now gone or reflecting on moments like an ex moving out as I sit on a couch we bought together during happier days. I wasn’t sure these complicated emotional moments needed a soundtrack yet there it is 12 times over. Xiu Xiu’s songs are not all miserable, like life they reach glorious shimmering peeks and then sink back down to a delicate hush. Picking up the pieces of a shattered moment, this painfully private internal conversation has never been better outted.

PFM does a remarkably great job translating the mood and tangled sounds on this record and seemingly is impressed with Xiu Xiu talents. Minus any hint of insult I’ll be damned as to why this record only got a 7.9. I know that isn’t bad but from what I can only guess at, PFM is not allowing this release to stand on it’s own. “Xiu Xiu's last album, Fabulous Muscles, found Stewart reaching the apex of his accomplishments to date.” PFM gave that release a 9.0 and clearly PFM has chosen it as their favorite.

It makes me uncomfortable giving this band or their records a rating because it’s like rating a funeral or a car crash. Admittedly there is a form of beauty found in all tragedy and Xiu Xiu exploits it breathlessly.

Art mimics life? Check.