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Charli XCX - How I'm Feeling Now (Album Review)

Monday, 18 May 2020 Written by Alex Myles

Charli XCX’s ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ is an album for and of our time. It was made under quarantine conditions, with the producer isolated in her L.A. home with her housemates and boyfriend Huck Kwong.

Her evolving relationship with him is the muse for most of this album; it’s a positive and sometimes joyous portrayal of love in lockdown, but on songs such as Enemy and Visions it’s also inquisitive and apprehensive. What is more clear-cut, though, is the fact that this is Charli’s most airtight release to date.

Her voice is dazzlingly manipulated, acting as a malleable instrument of its own a la Kanye West. The synths and timbres are bombastic, and the beats are abrasive yet straightforwardly enjoyable. 

The singles that prefixed the album, involving fans in the songwriting process via social media, are emblematic of the LP’s charms. Forever, for example, is a maximalist song of hope and progression.

Claws takes similar inspiration but it’s truly genreless–there are trap beats, witch house textures and bubblegum pop hooks among its twists and turns. I Finally Understand could be a Mura Masa cut–its syncopated, punchy bassline and gritty percussion give off a UK garage and jungle vibe.  

‘How I’m Feeling Now’ is a fitting title for a record that stands as an honest expression of vulnerability, hopeless romanticism, and yearning for the club. The first track, Pink Diamond, is all about the latter: “I just wanna go real hard, pink diamond in the dark.” The sawtooth synth lead is as jarring as Charli’s received pronunciation rapping, which thankfully doesn’t feature again. It’s a wildly chaotic start, and a telling indicator of what’s to come. 

Detonate is carried by a sweet oscillating synth and takes a more cautious approach lyrically, questioning one's heightened emotions (“Pull you close, and then, I’ll be gone”). The slow tempo, woozy balladry of Party 4 U is then quickly upended by high energy Eurodance visions. 

‘How I’m Feeling Now’ demonstrates Charli XCX’s talent as a songwriter and the idiosyncrasies of her corrosive pop brand, helped by a team of erudite producers including frequent collaborator A.G Cook. It’s testament to how creativity can thrive under these conditions, producing a body of work that will be regarded as one of the year’s best pop albums.

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