Thirty Tigers / Cooking Vinyl Australia
It’s album number 11 for the Minnesotan band, still led by Gary Louris who has endured line-up changes and a five year hiatus through the band’s 35 year career. XOXO is The Jayhawks’ fourth album since they reunited in 2009 and it finds them still mining their idiosyncratic seam of Americana-infused power pop, with mixed results.
Louris and co mastered hyper-melodic guitar pop-rock many moons ago and they can still knock out those songs with an effortless jangling power-chord swing of the arm. There are plenty of those on XOXO but too often they’re let down by sub par lyrics that deal with usual relationship themes. Where it gets more interesting is on songs such as ‘Society Pages’ which sounds like Elliott Smith in relaxed jam mode with Sparklehorse. The vocals are less eager and upfront and the guitars jangle and sparkle gorgeously in a restrained fashion. ‘Little Victories’ rides a great bass-line with a soulful STAX feel and a dark and moody palette of sound that blossoms into soaring vocal harmonies before retreating to the wings. Closer ‘Looking Up Your Number’ is a beautiful parting note to a past lover – a bare and tender psych-folk song.
With all four members contributing to the songwriting there is definitely more variety across XOXO but not the required level of quality control to filter out its weaker moments.