Xiu Xiu

Dear God, I Hate Myself

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Dear God, I Hate Myself is such an apt title for a Xiu Xiu album that it borders on self-parody. That’s not the case with these songs, but Jamie Stewart and company’s sense of humor and pop sensibilities are more prominent here than they have been since Fabulous Muscles. The band is still breaking boundaries when it comes to presenting unflinchingly honest confessions and questions in unpredictably sweet wrappers, especially on “Chocolate Makes You Happy” -- few other bands could combine such a seemingly naïve sentiment with lyrics like “oh, to curse life,” or mix the theme of purging with a melody so sugary it’s practically covered in sprinkles. This is Xiu Xiu’s first album with new member Angela Seo (Stewart’s cousin Caralee McElroy left the group and joined Cold Cave), and producer/Deerhoof member Greg Saunier contributes more to these songs than he has in the past; it feels like these lineup changes refreshed the band and refocused their vision. Dear God, I Hate Myself is also the band’s most overtly electronic album in some time, with several songs composed on a Nintendo DS that gives the darkness of “Apple for a Brain” and “Secret Motel” an unpretentious, somehow friendly feel. Not surprisingly given the album’s title, faith and despair are two of the album’s major themes, but Xiu Xiu finds fresh ways to explore them. “House Sparrow” revolves around escaping from a pedophile, while the title track is as pleading as it is funny, expressing self-loathing with witty lyrics like “flip off the mirror as protest.” All of the elements of the band’s sound are in perfect balance, with moments of high drama such as “Gray Death” and “The Fabrizio Palumbo Retaliation” countered by the equally brassy and wistful “This Too Shall Pass Away (For Freddy)” and, perhaps most unexpectedly of all, a sparkling banjo and synth-powered version of the traditional song “Cumberland Gap.” Throughout it all, Xiu Xiu remains as fearless as ever, but in a subtler, more subversive way that makes Dear God, I Hate Myself one of their finest albums yet.

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