• Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart

I’ve enjoyed a lot of the music that Bay Area group Xiu Xiu has made over the years, though “enjoy” might not be the appropriate verb. Group leader Jamie Stewart has always seemed intent on making you uncomfortable—he uses dissonant arrangements and harsh textures, ugly and unexpurgated subject matter, and a vocal style that often suggests someone hysterical and distraught caterwauling from a skyscraper window ledge. I decided I needed a break from Xiu Xiu a couple of years ago, after watching the video for their song “Dear God, I Hate Myself,” which features Stewart’s bandmate Angela Seo forcing herself to puke all over the nonplussed singer while he nonchalantly munches on a chocolate bar. But the group’s latest album, Always (Polyvinyl), has enough great music that I’m giving them another shot.