Baiting the haters seems like a full-time job for Jamie Stewart. The showy Xiu Xiu frontman has spent eight years upping the fuel he feeds his detractors, recycling the same art-pop, post-punk, theatricality, and clever self-reference he’s used all along. But he’s imbued his seventh studio full-length, Dear God, I Hate Myself, with a brittle, frosty sheen, partly due to new keyboardist and programmer Angela Seo. Stewart’s morbid, literate solipsism is offset here by consistently engaging tunes that experiment with—but don’t overdose on—concept or texture. Referencing everything from OMD’s Dazzle Ships (on the Speak-&-Spell-esque “Apple For A Brain”) to Tears For Fears’ The Hurting (on the digital-acoustic “Gray Death”), Stewart and Seo have twisted an admittedly dated retro-synth chic into something far more evocative and, yes, progressive. “If you expect me to be outrageous / I will be extra-outrageous,” Stewart trills on “Gray Death,” and although he’s singing in character to some degree, the irony remains: Dear God is one of Xiu Xiu’s least outrageous albums. Haters may be puzzled by this overt, well-chilled accessibility—but everyone else can just dig in and enjoy.
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