Often, the central focus of Jamie Stewart’s work as Xiu Xiu, and indeed the key to his success, is in his seamless ability to exist in opposing emotional states almost simultaneously. One minute he is a refrained, quiet whisper in which you can feel his breath in your ear, the next he is manic, shrieking, almost deranged, making you retreat in fear.

‘Always’ encapsulates these opposites just as perfectly as anything Xiu Xiu have ever done – never more so on the transition between the beautiful, plaintive and pop-like ‘Honey Suckle’, which then turns into ‘I Luv Abortion’, a fiercely aggressive and industrial assault that sounds like a Steel Works imploding. The record strikes a wonderful balance between experimentation and accessibility, the ideas present are vast and the execution of the production is glowing. Much like The Fall, Xiu Xiu exist around their own unique sonic template and on each release manage to break new ground, yet with that ever present feeling of familiarity still there.

Chances are, if you haven’t succumbed to Xiu Xiu’s charms by now it’s because they simply don’t charm you, and this album is unlikely to convert any non-believers. However, for those who are already in awe of Jamie Stewart’s twisted, brooding and persistently curious music, this album contains some of his greatest and most expansive work to date.

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