Xiu Xiu Dear God, I Hate Myself

Flirting ever closer with the rim of pop music, Jamie Stewart's Xiu Xiu have produced their most hummable experiment in song therapy to date. The departure of Caralee McElroy isn't as noticeable as fans may have feared; replacement Angela Seo slips comfortably into her sonic shoes. For an album as rife with depressive insecurities as any other in the Xiu Xiu catalogue, Dear God is deceptively riddled with sunny patches. "Chocolate Makes You Happy," hinting at the joy before a purge, contains the most saccharine melody Stewart's ever tracked. Noise play hasn't been reduced: the title track stutters through stomping folk pop strums to gurgle and tick like a tweaked raver vomiting electricity at an open mic night. Though still most affective delivering hyper-dramatic, chamber pop-inflected gothic rock ("The Fabrizio Palumbo Retaliation"), the Celtic-infused "Cumberland Gap" is the real experiment for an artist adept at composing on a Nintendo DS. If Stewart's emotional self-flagellation keeps producing songs this good, maybe we shouldn't tell him that this is his catchiest work since Fabulous Muscles. (Kill Rock Stars)