Xioma – When I Turn 30 (I’ll Feel Secure About Everything)
Reviewing a release titled thus is a bit of a trip, because I am 30. In fact, 31 is creeping up much more quickly than I’d like, but that’s another story.
We all have our thoughts on when we’ll feel used to adulthood, when we think we should have it together. As a self-diagnosed social late bloomer, I question if that will ever be the case. We can sure have fun experimenting with different paths along the way, though. Xioma takes this mindset and makes questioning life’s curveballs sound cool.
“All I want is to be seen,” the cello-punk artist Xioma (real name Aubrey Liston) muses in the song “Stranger.” A fundamental desire of every human, really. I can’t wave a magic wand with this blog and make every artist we feature get “seen,” but the structure of the music being so unique is a good start toward that path becoming reality. Xioma’s bio makes note of her influences; Mitski, St. Vincent, and Bach. That’s Johann Sebastian Bach, the German composer of the Baroque period. I’m not enough of a nerd to dissect each piece accurately regarding Bach, but I grew up with a father that loves organ, so I feel like I have some appreciation for him.
Sonically, this EP is a unique animal. With a descriptor like “cellopunk,” how can it not be? “Wild Woman” has an unassuming beginning, with just Aubrey’s raw, un-doctored vocals sounding like they’re in a open space with a faint echo. As the song ramps up, some simple but pronounced synth elements kick in, adding some electronic muscle.
A true highlight of the EP comes in “Who Cares,” a song that ditches traditional structure in favor of something that really grooves before giving way to an instrumental section that most likely falls into the category of being inspired by Bach (you can probably thank St. Vincent for the synth-inspiration). This is a calm interlude of sorts to serve as a vehicle for pondering the thoughts and repetition articulated earlier in the song. This song is complemented perfectly by the album ender “No Feeling is Ever Final,” which contains the poignant line “Listen to your body, but don’t ever trust your brain.” Whereas “Who Cares” starts out assertive and ends contemplative, this track does the opposite, dealing out that crusher of a line in the process. I’ll let you think of the implications of that line, but I interpret it as upholding the value of gut feelings while taking your overthinking brain with a grain of salt—that’s advice I need, for sure. And advice rendered with some nice classical instrumentation to wash it down is probably the best kind.
Xioma delivers the attitude of St. Vincent, with a vocal style inspired by Mitski, with her own classically-minded twist. Cello is one of those instruments that seem to transcend generations. I’d show this EP to my grandparents, but it’s entirely relevant to the 21st-century individual navigating adulthood.