Women as Lovers (Kill Rock Stars)

By Xiu Xiu

Women as Lovers, the sixth album from the experimental San Francisco pop collective Xiu Xiu, isn't exactly easy listening. But it is the group's most accessible effort to date, with songwriting taking clear precedence over sampled noise and found sounds. There's even a subdued but fairly straightforward (if you ignore the skronky saxophone) cover of Queen's "Under Pressure." Former Swans frontman Michael Gira chips in on that track, and his morose baritone matches Xiu Xiu's darkly pretty sensibility. Some of the songs are so ethereal they feel like they might disappear before they're done ("I Do What I Want When I Want"); others are bright, compact verse-chorus-verse gems ("F.T.W.," "No Friend Oh!"). Smart, melancholy, and relevant.