NO SWEDISH SONGWRITERS
NO TRAP BEATS
100% PURE UNCUT CHARLI XCX NOT MISSING. YET AGAIN.
(satire above is inspired by this laughable Green Day poster)
After being (allegedly) in development for less than six weeks, British pop mastermind Charli XCX has released her fourth studio album how i’m feeling now.
Since her last LP, Pop 2, Charli has been at the forefront of pop music’s development. Miss XCX tiptoes along a thin curb which features a lush little-elf-inhabited flower bed on one side, and, on the other, a roaring industrial autobahn loaded with hovering limousines and bright-pink, blood-spattered Toyota Priuses.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating a little. But there certainly is a cross of borders between the popular and the avant-garde in all of Charli’s recent music. Her genre-bending could be comparable to what Bowie was doing in the 70s, which was frantically creating glammed up pop-music which teeters on the cliff edge of insanity. If to carry on the connection, this recent run of fantastic albums from Charli is in any way like Bowie’s legendary string of albums in the 70s, then how i’m feeling now is Charli’s Low, and taking the producer place of Brian Eno, is 100 Gecs member Dylan Brady.
how i’m feeling now is more obviously experimental and noisy than any of Charli’s other works, deftly combining moments of straight industrialism with soaring pop vocal melodies and fantastic songwriting. Dylan Brady’s mention in the production credits clarifies how Charli has drawn somewhat away from the SOPHIE-Esque, bubble-gum cleanliness of her earlier albums, towards video-static-fuelled insanity of groups, such as 100 Gecs. Not that there are many groups like 100 Gecs.
The immediate aspect to note about this album is how it feels significantly more grounded than Charli’s other works. Not to undermine in any way the glossy heights of, say, her previous self-titled album Charli at all; the approach is simply different. This is very much linked to the inclusiveness of the album’s build-up, with Charli having her fans vote for their favourite picture to use for the album’s singles (‘forever’; ‘claws’; ‘i finally understand’), as well as having their individually sent-in clips flashing together as a communal celebration in the ‘forever’ music video.
The feeling of community in this project was further brought to light when Charli released a greenscreen version of her ‘claws’ music video for fans to play with, leading to multiple twitter threads of bemusing video rehashes and, of course, a few interjections of creatively implemented gay porn clips adorning the backdrop as Charli dances enthusiastically across the screen.
Pushing aside these social media interactions is, most importantly, the album itself. My previous mention of how i’m feeling now as a grounded album can be easily found in its instrumentation. In some places, sounds feel grittier and more directly experimental than much of her discography. But, by the same token, the album’s personality feels closer to home. The shiny futurism of, say, ‘2099’ featuring Troye Sivan (from Charli) is replaced by noisier, darker, dance-inspired beats, many of which bring to mind British-born genres such as drum and bass. The filthy sample soaring high above the blistering instrumentals of ‘pink diamond’ (which definitely reminds of the album’s tie to 100 Gecs) coupled at one point with a break-loop; the DnB style drum track to ‘i finally understand’; the blaring, stuttering synth lead and pounding bass to ‘visions’ (an instrumental description similar to the former also appearing in ‘anthems’): all these examples work to remind us of the point at which this album is grounded. how i’m feeling now is gritty and void of the kitsch often found in American conventional pop.
However, as my eloquent earlier analogy conveys, it’s not all blaring motorway. Charli is a quality pop artist, and to this title she sticks. ‘forever’ is a brilliantly crafted pop song, combining noisy instrumentals with catchy and nostalgic vocal lines. ‘c2.0’ (a second part to ‘Click’ from Charli’s last album), morphs from an extension of the experimental insanity at the end of the original track, into a slow-building melody-driven banger.
ok not to brag but it kinda feels like u have pretty much equal love for all the songs on this album… i really did thattttttt 💅💞
— Charli (@charli_xcx) May 17, 2020
‘anthems’ is, simply, a banger. I recommend listening to this track in the car if you’re not concerned about any crash risks resulting from slam hand-braking around every corner. The pure adrenaline rush of the blaring synth and sledgehammer-hard-hitting chorus has the ability to turn an eighty-year-old into a professional stunt driver. ‘visions’ is probably a masterpiece.
I could, in theory, unpick every track to its bare bones, but it’d get boring. So, I’ll just conclude that I wouldn’t really be able to convey much criticism of any track at all on this LP, apart from ‘enemy’ perhaps needing a structural mix-up as it approaches the three-minute mark. The repeated chorus makes it feel a bit too long.
This album is fantastic. It feels intensely authentic and personal, at the same time as grand, celebratory and experimental. It’s so refreshing to see the process of a subversive direction in music which isn’t masculine, stand-offish or deliberately unlistenable. Not that I don’t love Death Grips, but this approach taken by the likes of Charli XCX is a breath of fresh air in an ever-expanding music scene.
I rate ‘how i’m feeling now’ a whopping 4.5 raging-pop-hating-music-elitist-gatekeepers/5.
Form your own opinion by listening, below: