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.
Standout Tracks: “Sleepy Tigers”, “Two Tin Cans and a Length of String”