|A sharp departure from the lush, electronically-derived sounds of Her Space Holiday's earlier work, this seventh full-length recalls the laid-back pop of Beulah. Serene in tone, arranged with tambourines, banjos, acoustic guitar, toy xylophones and found sounds (sirens, tea kettles, crotchety old voices), the disc has, nevertheless, a melancholy underbelly. "Two Tin Cans and a Length of String" may sound like a shout-along celebration, but it's about the preciousness of connection in the face of illness. ("I remember the day the spot was found/the kids moved back just to help us out/You held yourself with such dignity"). This and other songs on the album make it clear that Marc Bianchi has lost someone recently, a parent or grandparent. They are warm, wonderful songs about loving and saying goodbye. |
Not that there aren't a few silly love songs to lighten things up. "Sleepy Tigers" rattles along on a handclap beat, jangly guitar chords punctuating infatuated couplets like "You'll make biscuits and I'll make tea/And curl up close and then fall asleep/To the sound of no one else, no one else around." "Boys and Girls" is even more upbeat, erupting into gentle burbles of "tra la la la" at the chorus, as buoyant as a pop soap bubble. Yet even love songs have their darker shadings. In "The World Will Deem Us Dangerous", the besotted narrator slips a girl a flower. The problem? He gets it from his father's open casket. By the time, it gets to the girl's desk it is brown, faded and smells of rot, and the girl asks for it to be removed. You could consider the flower a metaphor for this very appealing album, sweet, pretty and well-intentioned, but shadowed by close proximity to death.
And still, while XOXO plays, it has a drawling ease, a light-as-air touch that reminds you of Beulah's When Your Heartstrings Break. Nonchalantly, Bianchi connects sex and death, transience and memory, art and friendship, and his wispy pop songs bear the weight without the slightest strain. - Blurt