Liars have made a name for themselves by taking new stylistic directions on each of their albums and fully dedicating themselves to this new shape they’ve miraculously shifted into. On WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”), the three-piece out of Brooklyn has taken a completely electronic route, utilizing a plethora of samples to create a bunch of highly complex soundscapes. For the most part, this is a successful endeavor that should only further endear them to their growing fan base. Their single-minded dedication to this stylistic approach produces some undeniably impressive sonic moments. The down-side unfortunately is that they struggle to sustain this intrigue over the course of the 11 tracks, and, by the end, the sound grows a bit tired and exhausting. Despite this, the choice moments of borderline genius composition scattered throughout make this album memorable and distinct.
The album opens dreamily on the track “The Exact Colour of Doubt,” with tiny samples and strings playing over a meandering, lush soundscape. It immediately brings the album into a very deep place in terms of sound, and only makes you want to go deeper into this dark, shadowy abyss that they have promptly created. But maybe you don’t. Because on the next track, “Octagon,” the standout of the album, Liars go at a far more rapid pace, and as vocalist Angus Andrew’s voice breaks through amid the somewhat spooky instrumental backdrop, the album appears to begin in earnest. It’s a swift departure from the opener, which is partly what makes it work so well. If “The Exact Colour of Doubt” is a dreamy prelude, “Octagon” is a jarring expression of forward progress. On the next track, “No. 1 Against the Rush,” the fact that this song was the album’s first single is evident: it’s the most straightforward track on the record, but that isn’t to say it’s simplistic. It still has some complex, hypnotic electronic tones that not only elevate the song, but also further the album’s growing melancholic tone. Many of the lyrics on this one are a bit hopeless and defeatist. The only time the synths on here even approach “playfulness” is on “A Ring on Every Finger,” though even that might be a stretch.
About midway through, the album takes a disappointing turn. It starts with the sample-laden tune, “Ill Valley Prodigies” that seems pretty pointless and borders on filler. “WIXIW” is a lively centerpiece to the album, and ‒ for most of it ‒ Liars show their deft control of sound. But it wears out its welcome a bit too long and its back end chorus of Andrew lazily croaking, “I love life” is a bit too excruciatingly ironic and grating for my tastes. The end of the album loses some of the atmosphere that could be found at the beginning. It’s a disappointing finish line to an album that was full of oddly exciting sounds earlier. Overall, it leaves me with a curious situation of recommending ‒ heartily ‒ most of the album. Liars show too much talent and boldness in pieces of this album that it’s simply impossible not to recommend. Yet I can’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by the full, 11-track product.
MP3: Liars “Octagon”
Buy: iTunes or Insound! vinyl