LISTEN: Xiu Xiu’s new single “Hi”

This is already shaping up to be a year of new releases by LGBT (ish) bands and singers. Adam Lambert, Scissor Sisters and Of Montreal have already released tracks from upcoming albums. Now, indie avant popsters Xiu Xiu are back with their upcoming release, a new single and even a book by queer frontman Jamie Stuart, pictured. The official word came today that the band has dropped its first single from its upcoming album Always set for a March release (although the track was released a week ago on Soundcloud).

The album is said to ambitiously broaches themes and topics such as the objectification of migrant Chinese female laborers (“Factory Girls”), an Afghan teenage boy murdered by American soldiers (“Gul Mudin”) and a teenage girl too young for pregnancy (“I Luv Abortion”). Heavy handed, right? Heavy handed stuff, huh? But for those familiar with Xiu Xiu, Stewart and company don’t churn out bleak music despite such subjects. Their strange knack for melding pop music, tragedy and distinct hooks is evident on 2010′s Dear God, I Hate Myself.

Always has a big time Dallas connection, too. The album is mixed by Dallas-based producer John Congleton, who is a pretty big deal according to NPR. He’s worked with local acts like The Polyphonic Spree, Black Tie Dynasty and Sarah Jaffe and on a bigger scale, has produced work with Marilyn Manson, Antony and the Johnsons, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and whole helluva lot more. Always is also produced by Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier.

“Hi” is extravagant in its delivery with a major buildup and its lyrics are both abstract and poignant, but if it’s any hint of the rest of the album, I’m very much looking forward to it. Listen after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

And the winner, by a whisker, is … not Beckham

If you were watching USA network last night — or the rebroadcast this morning — you saw Beckham, the locally owned black cocker spaniel, win the best in sporting group award at the Westminster Dog Show. That qualified him for a 1-in-7 shot at the best in show title. Alas, it was not meant to be: The favorite, a Scottish deerhound, took the prize. They don’t present second or third place finishes, but Beckham was clearly a star, as was, to me, the Shar-pei and the foxhound.

Watching, I also learned the most popular breeds by AKC registration for the last year. In ascending order:  the Daschund, the boxer, the bulldog, the golden retriever, the beagle, the Yorkie, the German shepherd and the most popular: The Labrador retriever. I own or have owned mutt versions of five of those (including a current Lab mix), though only one registered purebred. And she was insane.

Congrats, Beckham, on your top finish at Westminster! You have nothing to be ashamed of. (I hear the deerhound sniffed the judge’s ass. …)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones