Album Review: Xiu Xiu – OH NO

By Venus Rittenberg, Contributor
[Polyvinyl; 2021]
Rating: 8/10

Key tracks: “One Hundred Years”, “A Bottle of Rum”, “OH NO”

Xiu Xiu’s 15th album is a project of duets that sees them returning to the sounds that frequent their discography prior to 2019’s experimental Girl with Basket of Fruit. A perfect example of this return to the olden days of Xiu Xiu is the title track, which sounds like something from Xiu Xiu’s fifth album, The Air Force, but with a poppier hook.

Read more: Finding Comfort in a Hopeless Place, a Guide To Xiu Xiu

OH NO was preceded by two singles, “A Bottle of Rum”, and “Rumpus Room”. “Rumpus Room” features an extremely catchy, “stuck in your head” chorus, whereas “A Bottle of Rum” is one of the prettiest songs Xiu Xiu has ever made. As the second to last track, It’s an excellent way to close out a well-rounded and diverse album, both emotionally and musically.

The album opens with “Sad Mezcalita”, a duet with Sharon Van Etten that combines both of their styles into a beautiful, melancholy song that builds to a glorious, yet heart-wrenching chorus. The first half of the album progresses with a variety of songs, many of which contain more folky elements than usually found in Xiu Xiu’s music.

This side of the album ends with “I Dream of Someone Else Entirely,” featuring Owen Pallett, whose voice has made stands out as a highlight. The lyrics detail a dysfunctional family, another topic more associated with older Xiu Xiu; however, this song is unlike anything Xiu Xiu has ever put out. It somehow feels reminiscent of a song from a musical without being tacky.

A stand out track on the album is an industrial cover of The Cure’s “One Hundred Years” with Chelsea Wolfe. Chelsea is the perfect pairing for this song, combining classic and contemporary goth music. The song turns The Cure’s post-punk classic into an industrial nightmare in a way that is both faithful to the original and yet something entirely new. Xiu Xiu is the perfect band to sing the iconic opening line: “it doesn’t matter if we all die.” It might sound even more natural coming from Jamie Stewart than it does from Robert Smith. This sense of ease is displayed in the moment at the end of each verse when Jamie and Chelsea trade-off the repeated line such as “waiting for the death blow” before the absolutely sinister riff comes back in. It’s an extremely dark moment on an extremely dark song and stands out within the tracklist.

Overall OH NO sees Xiu Xiu doing what they do best, making sad music for sad people. It’s nice to see Jamie and Angela incorporating more elements from their past work, yet still creating something entirely new. Xiu XIu’s OH NO is an excellent album, and sees the band continue to prove themselves as one of the most consistent bands of all time.

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