Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart has always written songs that sound like that the fragile sonic skeletons of industrial tracks flayed bare, but La Foret takes that technique a step too far. You're still compelled to hold your breath and listen closely for Stewart's breathy, broken vocals, but instead of the dynamically diverse songs that made last year's Fabulous Muscles great, this disc features half-finished sketches that rely on simplistic contrasts. Too often, Stewart goes for the easy shock value of disrupting airy, barely audible formless guitar strums and string plucks with harsh clanks and grinds and loud bursts of heavy noise. It's jarring the first time, irritating the 10th. That's not to say there's not good stuff here: Muppet Face is a fab synth Cure-styled goth dance tragedy, and the anti-fundamentalist Pox, with its clanging guitars and video game noises, is like an avant deconstruction of the Cranberries' Zombie. There's just not enough of it.
Xiu Xiu lay it bare at the Poor Alex Saturday (June 25).