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

‘Paradise’ found: After nearly 20 years, a documentary comes full circle

In the movies, the scene where the intrepid reporter/lawyer/medical examiner, after years of effort, finally clears the name of the wrongly convicted druggie/teen/single mom never rings true. It’s a cliche created in Hollywood for dramatic effect.

Except in the case of Paradise Lost, it’s true.

In 1996, HBO aired the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills, a compelling real-life whodunnit about three teens seemingly railroaded by closed-minded Arkansas yokels for allegedly killing three young boys in 1993. The defendants mostly had alibis and no motives, but they didn’t “look” normal — they were Goth and had piercings and wore black. Murmurs spread of Satanism (because, apparently, that’s the natural consequence of listening to Marilyn Manson). The doc raised questions of their guilt, but the three men festered in prison, one on death row. A follow-up documentary in 2000 introduced more exculpatory evidence, but nothing happened.

The finale of the unintended trilogy, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, does the remarkable: It basically ties up all the questions, and even points audiences in the direction of the real killer. (It’s a doozy, especially if you’ve watched the other documentaries intently — as I have — for 15 years.)

It’s almost unsettling how everything comes full circle, both for the men — Damien Nichols, Jessie Miskelly and Jason Baldwin — and the documentarians. (You don’t need to have seen the previous films; a lot of 3 is recap.) There are the requisite “Where are they now?” updates about the defendants and other principals, and the legal wrangling to get courts to reexamine the flimsy evidence and flaws of due process that landed them in prison.

But what makes Paradise Lost 3 so exciting — and not always in a good way — is seeing how hardened the opinions of many of those who blamed the West Memphis Three have become, despite all proof to the contrary… and how some unexpected accusers have softened. It truly is a story of human growth and understanding. I don’t know how the filmmakers could have known it when they named the first film nearly two decades ago, but Paradise Lost really has become a tale of redemption, and if the resolution is imperfect, it is nevertheless more real for it. And it doesn’t require Matthew McConaghey in a courtroom to accomplish it.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Four stars. Airs Jan. 12 on HBO.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 6, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Evan Rachel Wood says she’s bisexual

Evan Rachel Wood, who played the lesbian daughter of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, says she dates both men and women. In an interview in the May edition of Esquire magazine, Wood says  “I’m into anything. … Meet a nice guy, meet a nice girl…” She once dated bisexual rocker Marilyn Manson and starred alongside fellow averred bi gay Anna Paquin on True Blood but has never been linked to other women. But when asked if she dates women, she said simply, “Yes.”

—  Arnold Wayne Jones