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.