The only permanent member of the experimental pop duo Xiu Xiu, Jamie Stewart spins character tales in quivering bass and alto. His multifaceted ventures have featured a rotating cast, but lately family ties have proved strongest -- cousin Caralee McElroy alternately anchors and sets songs afloat on the latest release. Coming from a band that never sits still, onstage or off, Air Force
(produced by Deerhoof's Greg Saunier) plays like a retrospective of the group's art-rock/punk/folk/emo/noise past, varying styles as often as band members switch instruments. The lyrics are so painful, they could leave bruises. Stewart coos like a child and screams like a woman scorned to convey the depths of human darkness.