Xiu Xiu

While major-label bands can always look forward to the career-spanning ­greatest-hits cash-in, bands that labor in the upper limits of indie-dom have their own brass ring to reach for: the remix album. Emo/art-rock band Xiu Xiu was so honored with last year's Remixed and Covered, which found artists like Kid606, Devendra Banhart and Marissa Nadler all reworking the San Francisco trio's fragile, loaded songs. Xiu Xiu is perfectly suited for this kind of treatment, because its minimalist electro glitches and spare guitars leave plenty of room for deconstruction and reinterpretation. Jamie Stewart's vocals remain claustrophobic, coy and utterly beguiling on this year's Women as Lovers, though dizzying rhythmic clusters and sideways noise bursts push the intensity ever higher. A relatively faithful cover of David Bowie & Queen's "Under Pressure" acts as a release valve at the album's midpoint, as Stewart and Swans mastermind Michael Gira let loose their inner Bowie and Freddie Mercury.

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Christian Schaeffer