Xiu Xiu Dear God, I Hate Myself

In the last eight years, Jamie Stewart (the only constant member of baroque experimental pop outfit Xiu Xiu) has released an impressive six studio albums. The fact that none of the six stand out as particular duds speaks to his reputation for consistency and dedication to his craft. The last eight years have seen Stewart mature and even settle down. Gone are the violent musical and vocal outbursts that marked his early '00s output; in their place are nuggets of pop excellence that might even qualify as joyous from vocals less strained and foreboding than Stewart's belaboured hiss. The album oddly suffers from a saggy beginning after the initial burst of opener "Gray Death," but it picks up around "Hyunhye's Theme" and stays consistently engaging through to the affecting march of "The Fabrizio Palumbo Retaliation." And though Xiu Xiu's maturation has arguably inhibited their ability to express themselves without restraint, this much is damn near fact: Dear God, I Hate Myself is another in a long line of quality albums Stewart's crafted under the Xiu Xiu moniker. May he never slow down. (Kill Rock Stars)