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Liars

WIXIW

Format: CD   Release Date: 06/05/2012
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Anyone familiar with Liars knows that each album feels like a reintroduction to the band, and WIXIW (pronounced "wish you") is no exception. On their sixth album, the trio bring the electronic undercurrents that have been lurking in their sound since They Were Wrong, So We Drowned to the fore, but in a softly hypnotic fashion that's all the more surprising and striking given the sheer volume of the band's previous two albums, the gnarly rock of Liars, and the dense sprawl of their confrontational L.A. opus Sisterworld. Even WIXIW's lone rocker, "Brats," has a touch of disco shimmy to its beats while synths buzz and zap like a laser show. At the time of its release, WIXIW's electronic leanings drew comparisons to In Rainbows-era Radiohead, and in some ways Liars sometimes felt like the American-Australian equivalent to Thom Yorke and company in their willingness to defy boundaries and expectations. While there are certainly similarities to Radiohead's approach here, most obviously on the eerie, floating "His and Mine Sensations" and the bleary, blurry menace of "Octagon," this is distinctively and definitively a Liars album. "Flood to Flood"'s taunting refrain "teach me how to be a person/I refuse to be a person" is another prime example of the defiant streak that's always present in their music, while "A Ring on Every Finger" digs deeper into the percolating grooves they've explored since Drum's Not Dead's "It Fit When I Was a Kid" and Liars' "Houseclouds." Indeed, WIXIW's insularity often recalls the whispery parts of Drum's Not Dead, another album where the band proved that they do quiet just as thrillingly as they do loud, perhaps even more so. Nowhere is this clearer than on the single "No. 1 Against the Rush," which is drawn taut with rippling keyboards and bass, creates dread with negative space instead of distortion, and still manages to be one of Liars' most accessible songs. A few carefully chosen motifs, such as the acoustic guitar and found sounds on "Ill Valley Prodigies" and the synth flutes on "Who Is the Hunter," draw listeners further inward in a seductive, almost feminine manner. Perhaps WIXIW's biggest surprise is just how pretty it is, particularly on the luring opener "The Exact Colour of Doubt," where Angus Andrew's singing is nearly as lovely as the sea of strings and electronics engulfing him, and on the album's title track, where shoegazey drones mirror and deepen the song's confusing blur of emotions. While WIXIW might be a shade less ambitious than some of their previous albums, it's still fascinating to hear Liars wield beauty and delicacy just as formidably as they've used force and noise in the past. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi

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