5 Rue Christine
There are moments on "La Foret," Xiu Xiu's harrowing fourth album, in which singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart sounds like the most vulnerable creature in the universe. In a thin, quavering voice, he half-whispers such lines as "It's unmanageable to just keep on living," accompanied by murmurs of cello, clarinet and acoustic guitar. Yet Stewart summons as much rage as despair, and his vocal outbursts on such songs as "Pox" and "Muppet Face" are complemented by synthesized clangs and snarls harsher than anything the band has released.
Although Stewart is now the only full-time member of Xiu Xiu -- which takes its name from a film about a young Chinese woman forced into prostitution -- longtime collaborator Cory McCullough produced and played on "La Foret" (French for "The Forest"). Less melodic and accessible than last year's "Fabulous Muscles," the album does have its genial moments, combining cabaret and '80s British indie-rock. But they're regularly interrupted by Stewart's outraged howls, which accuse American society, the family and somebody named George of heinous crimes. If the particulars of Stewart's indictments are sometimes hard to follow, his vehemence is not. In an age of production-line pop, Xiu Xiu's music is achingly, movingly personal.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Wednesday at the Warehouse Next Door with Yellow Swans and Nedelle.