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Charli XCX “True Romance” – Album Review

Asylum (2013)

Like fellow synth-pop chanteuse Sky Ferreira, Londoner Charli XCX has been hanging around the blogosphere for so long that her debut album took on an almost mythical status. But five years after first introducing her brand of self-described Tumblr-pop to the world, True Romance is finally ready to hit the shelves.

With such an eternally long wait, the 20-year-old may well have tested the patience of her early admirers just a little too far. But the majority of these 13 bold quirky tracks should have them climbing back on board.

Indeed, backed by an impressive array of producers including Ariel Reichstadt (Usher), Patrick Berger (Robyn) and IDM maestro Gold Panda, True Romance certainly isn’t afraid to play around with the conventions of pop.

“Grins” fuses 60s New York girl group melodies with an ambient psychedelic backdrop to produce a wonderfully woozy ode to infatuation; “What I Like” kicks off with a convincing throwback to the heyday of acid house before settling down into a slice of bratty MIA-esque urban-pop; while the fusion of chipmunk-like samples with sassy electro R&B on “You (Ha Ha Ha)” and gothic synth-pop of “You’re The One” are two of the finest singles to have somehow missed the charts these last 12 months.

Perhaps frustrated by the latter’s lack of commercial success, Charli XCX also gives Lana Del Rey a run for her money with the stunning noirish kiss-off “Stay Away” and the brooding trip-hop of “Set Me Free.”

A misguided venture into four-to-the-floor territory on “Take My Hand” and an abrasive attempt at G-Funk with US rapper/stripper Brooke Candy on “Cloud Aura” proves her ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach doesn’t always reap rewards. While apparently inspired by ‘every corner of her romantic history,’ True Romance’s confessional tales of love may alienate those without a subscription to Cosmopolitan magazine.

But while many Pitchfork-friendly newcomers would have buckled under all the hype, Charli XCX has delivered a confident and intriguing record bursting with promise.

3 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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