Liars – WIXIW
In an era saturated with nostalgic trends, genre revivals and blankly derivative indie artists, Liars have always stood apart. Even compared to similar, avant-leaning artists, they have honed a distinctive voice that carried through all their albums, no matter how dissimilar each record could be. And their sixth album WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”) is no different, sounding wholly unlike anything they’ve done before yet feeling undeniably familiar. Though it’s tempting to say it is Liars’ first electronic album, that’s not entirely accurate. Electronic music has figured heavily into the band’s work since 2004’s They Were Wrong, So We Drowned, but here it provides the groundwork for their eerie, shape-shifting songs, rather than the accents. Instead of pushing these digital sounds into the red, though, Liars explore gentler, more relaxed moods, albeit ones that can still be unnerving at times. Out of all their records, WIXIW most strongly recalls the atmospheric Drum’s Not Dead, though there’s a more structured, song-based approach here that makes this far more accessible. “No. 1 Against The Rush” has an ominous melancholy that belies its subtly driving beat; meanwhile “Brats,” with its cool, fuzzed-out vocals and surging rhythm, is the closest Liars will ever come to a nightclub jam, even if there’s still an air of demented menace. The album also contains some of the trio’s calmest, prettiest material ever, whether it be the sighing synth dream “The Exact Color Of Doubt” or the abrupt turn into woozy folk on “Annual Moon Words,” which ends the record on a positive note. It’s true the music sometimes recalls the shadowy, paranoid electronica of Amnesiac through In Rainbows-era Radiohead, especially on the weary, sinister “Octagon” and in the Yorke-ian vocal snippets that chime in on “His And Mine Sensations.” But, to reiterate, this isn’t Liars’ version of a Radiohead album or something that directly apes that group—just like how Liars wasn’t directly aping mid-period Sonic Youth. They’re just yet another influence deconstructed, absorbed and repackaged bearing Liars’ signature stamp. There are few true highlights to speak of, but WIXIW might be the band’s most consistently rewarding record yet.