Xiu Xiu

Not too long after they released 2012′s excellent Always, Xiu Xiu are back with another album, but this one is pretty different even by their standards. The record is entirely made up of Nina Simone covers, and was inspired by a conversation Xiu Xiu mastermind Jamie Stewart had with Michael Gira while they were touring together. He elaborates below:

The idea came being back stage in Austin TX, opening for Swans and feeling like I did not play well. Michael Gira and I had the night before talked about our mutual love for Nina Simone and how her intensity and crazy political truthfulness always pushed us to try harder. After watching the Swans that night and knowing the difficult ups and downs of their history and now their epic and beautiful persistence, they made me want to try harder as well. Nina Simone’s singing is way over my head and while I was back stage feeling like i blew it that night, hearing the swans be amazing and thinking of Nina made me want to not give up. The idea came from wanting to honor her, challenge myself to be better than I think I can be and to say thank you to music. Ches Smith is the only person i know who could understand this in his heart and also handle the technical side of fearlessly reorienting such wonderful music.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t entirely unexplored territory for Xiu Xiu, who have built a long list of excellent covers of the year (the best being Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car.”) In fact Stewart first covered Nina Simone years ago on the Tu Mi Piaci EP, and later recorded a version of “Under Pressure,” with Michael Gira. Point is, Stewart knows what he’s doing when it comes to this, and this heart wrenching version of “Don’t Smoke In My Bed” only reinforces that. Listen below and look for the entire album in December.

Nina is out 12/3 on Graveface Records.

Comments (4)
  1. The Xiu Xiu record may be a collection of Nina Simone covers, but “Don’t Smoke In Bed” was written by the incomparable Peggy Lee and Willard Robison in 1948. Peggy’s version of her song from the 1969 album “Is That All There Is?” is absolutely fantastic. Some folks may prefer the qualities of Nina Simone’s voice–as well as the slow, sparse atmosphere of her rendition–but Peggy Lee really should get credited here….or at least mentioned!

    • Most of the stuff Nina Simone performed was covers. When people are covering Nina Simone, they are invariably covering something someone else wrote. Maybe they should have used a different word other than “cover”? Maybe songs inspired by the way Nina Simone performed them?

  2. I’m glad you think Always is excellent because it really is. I think it’s their best album since The Air Force.

  3. “Songs popularized by Nina Simone”? Anyway, I love both Nina Simone and Jamie Stewart, so I’m really really excited for this album (and whatever other Xiu Xiu stuff comes down the pipeline this year).

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post, reply to, or rate a comment.

%s1 / %s2