After Charli XCX’s release last year Charli, that garnered nearly universal praise for its grandiose future pop journey (the melon himself Anthony Fantano named it his favorite album of the year), one would think the follow up would be a bit more subdued. Add in a home recording in a global pandemic and unassuming album art, and a more relaxed album is guaranteed, right?
If you know me, you know I love pop music and all things neon, futuristic, and even a bit dystopian. The album how i’m feeling now encapsulates all of that in a bunch of bite size ideas, which in and of themselves are so chock full of hooks and whimsy that any bigger would be overkill. At times the album gets close to this. “Forever” nearly overstays its welcome with a chorus that threatens to repeat ad infinitum, before some distortion adds some needed variety to the song. In contrast, the song “claws” after it is a two and a half minute auto-tuned experimental pop track that might leave you breathless if you tried to sing along. I’m a dude and out of shape so I’ll leave this one to the professionals, no one needs to hear that.
As I type this, I’m thinking of the 22 track Notes on a Conditional Form by The 1975 that releases this Friday. In contrast, this album by a high profile artist clocks in at a mere 37 minutes. Both of these approaches are equally valid; the jury is still out for me on the former, but I love a pint size record that packs a punch.
Topically, the album isn’t as surreal as the sounds suggest. Charli certainly doesn’t shy away from the suggestive. Neither does she brush aside the mundane. Yet, no topic is overindulged. She’s real. The album starts with the line “Sometimes I just wanna go real hard.” There’s no need to be poetic for the sake of being poetic. Charli can take a straightforward line like that and make it badass.
Overall, I find this album to be more fun and enjoyable than her eponymous release last year. Why? I’m not sure. I’ll be really curious to see if any of these songs see the light of day on tour, or if they stay within this quarantine creative microcosm.