While Xiren's two previous CDs were globetrotting adventures, whisking the listener away for a whirlwind tour de force of cultural influences, Polite Conversation gets right down to his essential pop roots. Most of the songs spin and soar, relying mainly on lush keyboards and breathy, sensuous vocals that land on the listener like dappled sunlight. Elsewhere, the sound is slightly harder: "Why Do I?" is injected with pure guitar raunch and pumping rhythms. The south-of-the-border rump-shaker "El Borracho y la Flamenca" delivers an affable Latin pulse and the sound of street musicians in Mexico City, but it doesn't quite capture the flames of the live version. Flamenco aside, Xiren holds his ground as a witty pop playboy, using treats like sweet-cream Beatles baroque and feathery hooks. Polite or not, this is a conversation worth listening to.


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