Music review: Xiu Xiu brings listeners back to the town of ‘Twin Peaks’

“Twin Peaks” was, from a storytelling standpoint, one of the most important television series of all time. Creators Mark Frost and David Lynch helped kick-start a shift to a more cinematic approach to TV.

One of the many aspects that helped Frost and Lynch achieve their goal of making television feel more like a movie was the show’s score by Angelo Badalamenti. The music of “Twin Peaks” did a wonderful job of setting the mysterious and suspenseful atmosphere of the show.

Last year, the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art commissioned Californian avant-garde rock band, Xiu Xiu – pronounced shoo-shoo – to perform the show’s soundtrack live for an exhibit on co-creator and director, David Lynch.

Once the exhibit ended, the band went into the studio to record these covers as a Record Store Day 2016 exclusive release, in the same vein as their 2013 Nina Simone cover record “Nina.”

To me, the idea of “Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks” raised two questions – Will the record accurately capture the tone and aesthetic of the show? And will existing fans appreciate it as a Xiu Xiu album? Fortunately, the answer to both is a resounding yes.

To say “Twin Peaks” was a strange show is an understatement. So, it’s only fitting that an equally outlandish band should be covering its soundtrack. Many listeners may have been frightened away by front man Jamie Stewart’s breathy, almost-whispered vocal delivery on past releases, especially “Nina.” But, fear not, this album is largely instrumental and where there are vocals, Stewart makes a slightly more accessible effort, reminiscent to David Bowie on this year’s “Blackstar.”

Throughout this record, the band does a beautiful job of recreating “Twin Peaks’” jazzy score while making it uniquely their own.

Xiu Xiu’s signature fuzzy guitars and whirling synthesizers are all over this thing. Most prominently on the track “Packard’s Vibration.” One of my main worries before listening to this album was that it would simply feel like a score to a film or television show. This track, especially, is proof that this is an album that can be listened to over and over.

The song “Nightsea Wind” is a swooping soundscape that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of a science-fiction film.

“Blue Frank:Pink Room” is a surprising six minute long guitar-heavy jam-session. A track like this proves this is a record that Xiu Xiu really wanted to make, and not just an obligation to GOMA.

Although each track truly shines on its own, the highlights of this record are “Laura Palmer’s Theme,” “Into The Night” and the cover of the show’s opening theme song, “Falling.” These three tracks do the best at capturing the atmosphere of the show through the reverberating guitars and implementation of vocal samples.

Showtime is set to bring back “Twin Peaks” for a third – and possibly fourth – season in 2017. It would be brilliant to see Xiu Xiu’s rendition of “Falling” implemented as the show’s theme song.

However, the closer of this album, “Josie’s Past,” is a trudge to get through. It’s an excerpt from “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” read over an extremely simple and monotonous drone. And it goes on. And on. For eight minutes.

It’s really a shame because every other song on this project is enjoyable. Luckily, it’s the last track, so don’t feel too bad for skipping it. Those who haven’t seen “Twin Peaks” should definitely skip this track, given that the excerpt contains major spoilers to the show.

Die-hard fans of “Twin Peaks,” to this day, still listen to the show’s soundtrack 25 years after its finale. While some may be turned off by Xiu Xiu’s strange sound, many will appreciate the band’s attention to detail and the care they’ve put into recreating the show’s score.

“Xiu Xiu Plays the Songs of Twin Peaks” is currently only available on an exclusive vinyl pressing as part of this year’s Record Store Day. A digital release is sure to follow in the coming months.

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