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Xuan – Have Some Fun

Stoic beats blended with colorful, polished pop melodies forge the addictive sound of indie rocker Xuan’s new album Have Some Fun, which hits record stores and streaming sites this November via Palo Santo Records. Xuan fearlessly works her way through a smorgasbord of garage rock anthems that are framed in an eccentric, hollow-point mix that makes every gilded nuance of their grooves feel insular and removed from our present reality. The music is as bold as the lyrics are, which cryptically weave a web of cerebral thoughts together to make songs like “Not the Man,” “Ain’t Hurting Little Me” and the epic “Last I Heard” feel like sequences in a vivid dream instead of typical pop tunes. Xuan fires on all cylinders in this LP and leaves anyone with a taste for slick rhythms amply satisfied.

The vocal track in “Shut It Down” sounds like a radio transmission from outer space, as does that of “I Wanna Know You.” Xuan’s singing is distinctively separated in the master mix, allowing for listeners to hear her complete performance without the band’s melodies intruding. Part of what makes songs like “Nobody Knows” as endearing as they are here is the abstract, black and white mix they’re filtered through; instead of trying to piece together the intricacies as they’re distributed to us in one big glob of sound, the instrumentation and the vocals are efficiently produced and evenly balanced in the final product. This makes the percussive strut in “Nobody Knows” in particular so much more tangible and evocative than it would have otherwise been.

Beside the robotic rigidity of the guitars in “Sheila” and the grinding “Big Blue Ocean,” Xuan’s verses take on a romantic glow that feels incredibly human and relatable. “Big Blue Ocean” is as incredibly piercing sonically when played at a low volume as it is at a higher level, and it’s one hundred percent because of the swagger in Xuan’s vocal. The words roll of her tongue as if they’re two steps ahead of the band and perhaps even Xuan herself, who is so casual and easy going amidst the jittery discord of the band in the background. She’s not the reckless bucking bronco that Iggy Pop was in his prime, but she exudes so much raw power in tracks like underscored ballads like “Break This Heart Again” that she makes stacked amplifiers and distortion pedals feel like archaic trinkets.

Xuan’s Have Some Fun is an exhibition in translucent pop harmonies that are sprawling and provocative yet remarkably subtle and earnest. There’s a lot of layers to peel back in the twelve tracks that it has to offer, but with slow jams like “Night Drive” and exotic sparklers like “We Were Just Talking” comprising the more simplistic moments that it brings to the table, I’m confident that most music buffs will have a hard time putting down this LP once they pick it up. It’s got the charm of an intellectually stimulating indie rock album but without any of the pomp and self-righteousness that often plagues contemporary indie releases, but more importantly it’s an authentic slice of pop magic from a truly talented young artist.

John McCall

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