Liars’ blog is a strange video diary of sorts leading up to, but not stopping at, the release of the band’s new album, WIXIW (pronounced “wish you”). Starting back in October of 2011 with the announcements of finding a recording space and a producer, the blog then introduces a number of loops and samples in video form. These videos are sometimes just a static image of unusual effects, pedal set-ups involving a cactus. Other videos feature surreal footage of the band. All of them contained weird electronic sounds coming from mundane objects like flickering fluorescent lights or a stack of books. Collectively they served to build up anticipation for the new album, which remained unnamed until April 2012. This idiosyncratic insight into the creative process of the band foreshadowed an equally unconventional album, released June 5, 2012 on Mute.
WIXIW is both very much a Liars album as well as something new and inventive. The increased emphasis on electronic noises instead of guitars and percussion is a successful experiment in sound without compromising any of the eccentricity that the three-piece band is known for. The album takes all of your expectations and shakes them up, even changing course dramatically between and within songs.
“The Exact Colour of Doubt” is the opening track on WIXIW. This hauntingly expansive piece is like listening to a song in a dream. There are delicately quiet vocals over a wave of sound, which are later joined by some subtle hand-clapping percussion and a shoegaze guitar melody. The next track introduces percussion in the form a drum machine. “Octagon” could easily be at home on Radiohead’s Amnesiac. Vocalist Angus Andrew channels Thom Yorke’s singing style of mumbled words and billowing melodies.
The album’s single, “No. 1 Against the Rush,” begins with sonorous electronic beeps that continue once the steady percussion kicks in. The subdued pace of the song lulls the listener into a false sense of security, but the chord progressions and atonal vocals indicate that there is something sinister lurking below the surface. The intensity builds at the very end to lead into a positively danceable tune called “A Ring on Every Finger.” This tunefulness combined with a great dance beat reappears later on the album in the song “Brats.” The song is a real departure for the band who is known for the primal-sounding drums of Drum’s Not Dead and even the dance-punk of the band’s first album, They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top. “Brats” seems almost too formulaic for the band, but it’s damn danceable.
The highlights of the album are the four tracks in the middle, starting with the title track, going to “His and Mine Sensations,” then “Flood to Flood,” and finishing with “Who is the Hunter.” These four songs all possess a tunefulness that is hard to get out of the head, but in a haunting way. The six-minute-long “WIXIW” begins with repetitive keyboard arpeggios and somber vocals, but at about two minutes the drums start and the melody changes, and the tone of the song shifts to true nostalgia. This feeling of yearning continues into “His and Mine Sensations” with lyrics like “So I can see a better life / Tell me it’s a life” then reappears in the song “Who is the Hunter,” which is a softer track about remorse. Andrew said in an interview with Pitchfork that the album is about internal struggle, as he says in lyrics from “Flood to Flood”: “Teach me how to be a person / I refuse to be a person.” The lyrics certainly convey the sense of conflict with oneself. The track’s repetitive rhythm and chanted vocals only add to the sense of disillusionment.
The album ends with “Annual Moon Words,” which has a sense of innocence after the fairly disturbing turmoil of the rest of the album. Then Andrew repeats the final line, “I’m on my way down,” until the end of the song and the album. The simplicity of the ending of the album is audibly different from the spaciousness of the beginning, yet there is cohesion in WIXIW‘s discontent.