Described as “challenging” music, Knife Play launched Xiu Xiu into the music world, and they have been hard at work trying to redefine challenging music on their own terms. Slowly, Xiu Xiu has built up a following while working to perfect their music. Fabulous Muscles is the result of changes within the band that focuses around negative dominance.
Fabulous Muscles starts out sounding like a broken Super Nintendo with soft, alluring, whispering vocals. The vocals then pick up to catch the music that seems to be trying to win an imaginary race with Stewart. This album is not the usual dance influenced Xiu Xiu; in fact, it is rather more of an experimental electronic sound. To be honest, there isn’t a specific track that outshines the rest, but the album overall has solid material.
Stewart isn’t a gifted vocalist, but despite his shortcomings he still manages to make this interesting. Something about his vocal expression makes you want to continue listening. Things do get a little dull towards the middle, but all albums tend to fall into some sort of lull, which makes it acceptable. However the lull in this album doesn’t compare to what other albums have. This lull has something lurking in it; the ability to still outshine most other works this year. Ignoring this small fact, the album continues on proudly, wrapping things up elegantly with “Mike.”
At first, Fabulous Muscles can sound like an out of tune, out of beat band that just sat down and starting playing. The music can be chaotic, but at the same time it is so tightly constructed that it all falls into place together. But what is best about this album is that it all strings together to create something with a message. Too much music today is wasted on trying to be popular and not get something across within the songs. Xiu Xiu had a central idea of what they wanted and managed to execute with poise.
Impressive is an understatement; and Fabulous Muscles is an album that boasts a certain magnetic force that makes it a mainstay in CD rotation. Something about this album is haunting. Maybe it is the influences of what made this album, or maybe it is just the indescribably beautiful use of instruments that had not before been explored. Stewart’s voice is impressive on this album, and results in a perfect balance between the music and the album’s vocal tone. The harmony that arises is awe-inspiring. Take the time out and give this album a listen. It is one of the few so far this year that deserve it.