When nearly the entire world was locked down to their own homes at the beginning of March, music writers across the world were prepared for the inevitable emergence of ‘The Quarantine Sessions’ from artists from every genre. Whether it was Zoom led singalongs, or acoustic recordings from their front room, I doubt many of us would have expected some artists to record entirely new albums in Lockdown, perhaps only short EPs like the Little Simz release. But Charli XCX did exactly that, How I’m Feeling Now surely one of the first entire albums recorded, written and released during a global lockdown?
How I’m Feeling Now might even be THE Charli XCX album. It’s undeniably the most cohesive and consistently thematic record she has ever released. It’s the first time that all of the pieces have aligned perfectly for Charli XCX The Artist to be the centre of an entire album; part of why I absolutely can’t stand it. This reaction feels obvious though, How I’m Feeling Now includes everything I’ve just not gelled with on previous releases from Charli, but somehow that’s a good thing?
Here is where I try and explain why the fact I really don’t like an album backs up its success without it sounding like I think my own taste in music is shit. It only makes sense if the album is taken as a piece of work and not as the disposable pop that some might equate this record to. Every moment on this elicits a reaction for the listener, uncomfortable screeches of noise drop suddenly over distorted vocals and drum machines on opener ‘pink diamond’, choruses are hooky and burrow deeper in your head than is okay for them to on ‘forever’ and ‘party for u’.
It’s safe to say that the Picky Bastards podcast team didn’t enjoy the 2019 album from 100 Gecs, so they’ll hate the songs they’ve helped to produce here. Claws especially sounds like being impaled by a vocoder repeatedly, it’s irritating, but 100% intentionally so.
If an album was ever to be created entirely digitally, produced over Zoom no less, it’s this one. The sound is so digitally perfect it’s as if Charli XCX has finally revealed herself as an AI created pop-star, that she merely exists inside the internet. You’d believe it if only for the glimpses of lyrical moments that start to feel much more personal, Enemy is undoubtedly the stand-out here and is one of the few moments where I can get over the things I didn’t like.
This album is Charli XCX from beginning to end. I can even hear her stans screaming along to ‘anthems’, which sounds designed to be heard blasting out in a festival tent with stage pyrotechnics blasting off every few seconds. Songs like this are the reason I’ve never been able to fully get on board with ‘Charli XCX The Savior Of Pop’ everything is just so intentionally over the top and faceless, like a robot took up a music career.
In the lead up to her last album, the self titled Charli I thought she was moving in a direction I would finally be able to join in with, collaborations with Lizzo and Christine and the Queens some of her best work yet. But once that album was released it became clear that she just doesn’t make music for me. Spending time with How I’m Feeling Now I finally understand that that’s perfectly fine. Probably the best ‘Charli XCX’ album yet, but it’s not for me.
Words by Sam Atkins