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In 2000, Radiohead shocked the world by turning into an electronic band with the release of Kid A as the follow-up to arguably one of the best rock albums of all time, 1997’s OK Computer. Gone were the guitars, drums or any other normal sounding instruments for that matter, and in were synthesizers, loops and drum machines.
Now in 2012, Brooklyn (by way of Los Angeles) band Liars have taken a similar approach to change by releasing WIXIW (pronounced "wish you"), an electronic follow-up to the stellar guitar-led, art-punk of 2010’s Sisterworld.
To set the record straight, it isn’t as shocking that Liars have done a heavily electronic influenced album as it would seem. 2004’s They Were Wrong, So We Drowned combined electronic and rock elements to create an off-kilter, uneven sounding version of post-punk that had some intriguing results. WIXIW, however, is Liars' first foray into a primarily electronic album.
If there is one thing that is astounding about WIXIW, it is that the album itself sounds like it belongs to Liars, despite the obvious changes. The songs are just as twisted and odd as they were before, and they manage to hold interest all the way through.
A lot of this is due to the use of lead singer Angus Andrew’s vocals that texturize the otherwise mechanically whirring backing tracks. A great example of this is album opener “The Exact Colour of Doubt.” The track glimmers with synth until Andrew’s vocals come in; from that point on, layers upon layers of synth, guitar, hand claps, and bass are added until it all just fades away. It is an intriguing progression to a fairly low key opening to the album.
Some of the songs really groove, too, showcasing Liars' ability to create something accessible out of alienating sounds. That arrangement appears in the slinking “Octagon,” with its tribal electronic drum treatment, the creepy “A Ring on Every Finger,” and the dance beats of “His and Mine Sensations” and “Brats.”
Lead singles “No. 1 Against the Rush” and “Brats” are the most similar to Liars' previous material, and are also two of WIXIW’s highlights. The former features some of best qualities of the album as a whole; it opens with a sequencer that gives way to a drum part that drives the song forward with guitars used to inject a hazy dreamlike atmosphere into the song.
Liars have created an album that pushes their experimental ambitions forward with smartly constructed songs that sound eerie but feel oh so right. WIXIW could even end up being one of the best albums of the year. Well done Liars, well done.
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