Charli XCX
How I'm Feeling Now


4.0
excellent

Review

by Christopher Y. USER (50 Reviews)
June 26th, 2020 | 6 replies


Release Date: 2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Your Digital Lockdown Music Box.

The pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s daily life and work, not excluding the music industry. Many musicians forced to cancel or postpone their touring schedule or album release as a result of lockdown in various countries, losing their major source of income for them in this streaming age, let alone recording and releasing new music. However, Charli XCX, a.k.a. Charlotte Aitchison instead adopted a more unorthodox approach in the creation process of her new album—using Zoom calls to communicate with her producers and fans, all the while stuck in self-isolation. While using the Zoom conference for work is now very common in this pandemic era, I can’t help but feel that the previously adventurous Aitchison’s step is a gimmick in the lockdown era to attract more fans alike, creating the so-called experience.

But boy, I was wrong the whole time, she is still a daredevil in the pop game.

The album, how i’m feeling now, is Aitchison’s most uniquely intimate record to date. While at its lesser moments in “pink diamond” and “c2.0”, the pop songwriting does not blend well with the avant-garde, digital sound effect, creating songs that sound like peculiar products created by an AI (which is not necessarily a bad thing per se). At its best, though, it results in enchantingly paradoxical songs that felt both artificial and humane at the same time. In the catchy “enemy”, we can hear her melancholy vocals voicing her concerning her estranged persons in question, where she struggles to believe whether he is her enemy or not while recovering the relationship with him (” Suddenly, you’re in my bedroom under my sheets every night/Suddenly, I lose my fear, it feels good, yeah”). In the kitschy yet lovely “forever”, she promises him that she will love him despite the long-distance(“I know in the future we won’t see each other/Cold just like December but I will always love you”), as if she recorded an “I love you forever” message in the future with the audio clips are being clipped and distorted. In the five minute opus that is the glimmering “party 4 u”, Aitchison sends a message about unrequited love, where she did everything to get her crush’s attention(“DJ with your favorite tunes/Birthday cake in August/But you were born 19th of June”), but he was either unaware or not buying it(“Why you treating’ me like someone that you never loved?”). In the flashy “anthems”, she laments about the good old pre-lockdown days (“Flowers and the trees, dirt all on my knees/Got some hands to hold on to”), while finding the situation suffocating and unfulfilling(“Try my best to be physical/Lose myself in a TV show/Staring out to oblivion”). The magical thing among these songs, however, is the second pronoun such as “you” she sang does not sound like she is necessarily addressing to her boyfriend, but the listeners themselves, as if she is giving a comforting message to them in their songs. It also helps with the fact that there are no other guest vocalists in the album, only Charli herself, as if this is her show, projecting her love and emotions in this time to both her lover and fans.

It is not just the intimate sound that makes how i’m feeling now such a remarkable work. Unlike the punky Suckers or the overtly glossy self-titled predecessor, the album veered towards the abrasive, experimental electronic pop that is akin to the messy yet prophetic Vroom Vroom EP and her fractured, definitive magnum opus Pop 2, or even a stripped-down version of True Romance. Sure, the album has all Aitchison’s vocals to be treated with auto-tune, similar to Charli, which is not surprising when the album’s producers A.G. Cook and BJ Burton also helped in the latter. Don’t expect songs like “1999”, “Blame It On Your Love” or “Gone” though, because how i’m feeling now contains some of Aitchison’s most difficult works as well, with tracks such as the brash opener “pink diamond”, the sequel to the Charli track “Click” that is the vocal pitch experiment “c2.0” and the stunning closer that is “visions”, which presents an electrifying coda in the end, is something that would not fit in any of her previous albums. Even the more accessible, hook-laden earworms such as the twinkling “detonate”, the lovelorn lament “7 years” and the groovy “claws”, the auto-tuned vocals and rather arcane electronics in them have turned them into rather impenetrable for those who are not expecting it. While it does serves as a double-edged blade towards the listenability of the album, the production does give the album a distinctive sound that separates it from other pop releases, further cementing Aitchison and the producers as unique pop auteurs.

Don’t be mistaken, making music with a limited amount of resources at home is not a new thing nowadays, especially bedroom pop artists such as Alex G have risen to prominence recently. What makes this album surprisingly magical is how Aitchison utilizes the visual conference application to work with fans and the producers, creating a work that is exactly delivered as the title suggests, an album that perfectly portrays the pop artist’s emotional disarray in the pandemic lockdown. The result? An excellent, if slightly disoriented and inconsistent effort that once again proved Aitchison as a unique force in the pop music scene who is willing to experiment with her sound, instead of being confined into one sound.

Personal Rating: 3.8/5

Recommended Tracks:
forever
enemy
party 4 u
visions



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SherlockChris9021
June 26th 2020


222 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Whew, this is my first review in years after the pandemic school term. I hope you guys don't mind the quality of it since I have not written a review for months.

As always, constructive criticism is welcomed.

OSEL
June 27th 2020


549 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hey guy, good read and welcome back. I remember reading your review for Blue last summer while I was on the bus in Oregon.

AbsurdMikey
November 29th 2020


27 Comments


Pos

Tyler.
November 29th 2020


19030 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good album

Colton
November 29th 2020


15527 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Should probably check out the previous one soon

GhostB1rd
November 29th 2020


7938 Comments


It's good but not as excellent as this. Nor as consistent. Pop 2 is better.



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