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Music review: “How I’m Feeling Now” by Charli XCX

Charli XCX | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Charli XCX | Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


English singer-songwriter Charlotte Aitchison, known professionally by the stage name Charli XCX, released her fourth studio album “How I’m Feeling Now” (stylized in all lowercase letters) on May 15.

This record is supported by three singles: “Forever,” “Claws” and “I Finally Understand.” Recorded between April 6 and May 8, 2020, this album was Aitchison’s reaction to the coronavirus pandemic and the self-isolation that followed, and the record’s sound is indicative of that. It’s vulnerable and unpredictable from the start, which I really admire.

The production is very experimental and electronic, and the mix of catchy lyrics with well-produced beats helps the album come together nicely.

Highlights

1. “Forever”

Featuring distorted production and a number of background harmonies, Aitchison croons over bright synths about a love that will always last, and that no matter how far the physical distance is between the pair, that they will always be together.

2. “Detonate”

A song on the album that seems more laid back, the distorted vocals remain as the singer shows the frustration and confusion associated with her situation. Like many of us during the pandemic, Aitchison feels cooped up, and here, she lets that feeling show.

3. “Anthems”

The booming percussion of this song really captures the feeling of a night out, and the tinny synthesizer riff helps tie the tune together, showing that Aitchison very much wants to get back to how things were before the pandemic hit.

Background

Aitchison started writing songs when she was fourteen years old, and started off her music career by posting tunes on her official MySpace page.

A promoter hosting raves and parties in east London saw the songs and invited her to perform, and it was at these parties where Aitchison was billed as Charli XCX. This stage name came from her MSN Messenger nickname when she was younger.

Aitchison was signed to Asylum Records in 2010 and wrote multiple singles after being sent beats by producer Patrik Berger. One of these tunes ended up being re-recorded by the Swedish duo Icona Pop with Aitchison’s vocals and became the hit song “I Love It.”

Later that year, she released her debut extended play, “You’re The One” along with the mixtapes “Heartbreaks and Earthquakes” and “Super Ultra.” Aitchison released her debut album, “True Romance,” in 2013, and collaborated with Iggy Azalea on the hit single “Fancy.”

She released her second studio album, “Sucker,” in late 2014, with one of the singles, “Boom Clap,” being featured in the movie “The Fault In Our Stars.” The EP “Vroom Vroom” was released in 2016.

Two more mixtapes, “Number 1 Angel” and “Pop 2,” were dropped in 2017. Her latest studio album before “How I’m Feeling Now,” simply titled “Charli,” was released in 2019 to rave reviews and included collaborations with Christine and the Queens, Troye Sivan, and Lizzo.

Aitchison announced on April 6 that she was working on a new album through a public Zoom call. “The nature of this album is going to be very indicative of the times just because I’m only going to be able to use the tools I have at my fingertips to create all music, artwork, videos everything,’ she said during the call. Later Zoom chats were used to share ideas and demos with fans, and these fans were able to give feedback on album artwork and ideas for songs.

The musical variety on “How I’m Feeling Now” is really nice, because you have some tunes that belong in a club setting (like “Anthems”) and others that convey happiness and frustration and the overall feeling of anxiety that accompanies isolation.

Musically and lyrically, it hits all of these emotional beats with plenty of style, leading to an album that is pleasing to the ears but isn’t afraid to hit hard.