A recording artist could easily fall victim to lackluster results when upgrading from lo-fi to polished studio production and transforming lyrics from angsty action-oriented themes to emotional evaluation. But You Say Party! We Say Die! has reaped the benefits of technology and introspection on their 3rd LP, XXXX. The Canadian quintet also took time – a whole year, a luxury they did not have for their previous two albums (QRO review), which were thrown together without any editing decisions in six weeks. Most importantly, lead singer Becky Ninkovic has risen from the ashes of her former tormented self to find her true vocal ability and confidence.
Though the album’s title, XXXX, begs for ambiguity, one only has to look at the cover art and find a heart at the center and the opening track, "There is XXXX (Within My Heart)" to know that Ninkovic is all about L-O-V-E. Three of the ten tracks have "XXXX" in their title. "There is XXXX (Within My Heart)" recites Ninkovic’s journey from the darkness of her heart to the light. The song begins with aching vocals starkly paired with the funeral keyboards and a hint of percussion, eventually exploding into a celebratory pop-dance rock while still maintaining YSP!WSD!’s trademark cool melancholia.
"Make XXXX", along with "Glory" and "Cosmic Warship Avengers" is more reminiscent of their previous style, with more punk-dance beats and lyrics that beckon the audience to action, rather than reflect. Songs like "XXXX/Loyalty" and "Dark Days" reminds us that the Vancouver-based band will always have one foot firmly planted in the ‘80s new wave and Brit-pop with pulsating gloomy keyboards and ominous drumming that recall Siouxie and the Banshees, Love and Rockets, and Bauhaus.
With XXXX, Ninkovic has been numerously compared to Siouxie Sioux. But YSP!WSD! sound more like darker version of Blondie (QRO photosQRO review) rather than the Banshees. Previously, the dark haired siren was most often likened to Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs (QRO album review). Ninkovic may soon find the comparisons dissipate if the latest album is any indication of her abilities.
"Laura Palmer’s Prom" dances into your heart as one of the finest neo-new wave track in recent years. This song recalls the best of the ‘80s iconic classics like Modern English’s "I Melt With You" and The Cure’s "Just Like Heaven", while the other, slower ballad, "Heart of Gold" finishes off the album with Goldfrapp channeling Cocteau Twins.
XXXX is a resurrection after Ninkovic‘s breakdown resulting from a 16-week non-stop transatlantic tour that almost broke up YSP!WSD!. Yes, Mr. Lennon, love is the answer.