It may seem obnoxiously eclectic to followup a post on early Pink Floyd leader Syd Barrett‘s best songs with coverage of millennial pop star Charli XCX. She was born more than two decades after Barrett released his final album. But the pair have a surprising amount in common – they were both born in Cambridge and they’re both reported as experiencing Synesthesia, where they experienced sounds as colours.
Charlotte Aitchison christened herself Charli XCX after her MSN Messenger handle. She broke through early as a songwriter, penning ‘I Love It’ for Icona Pop while still a teenager. With an ear for pop hooks and a devoted Instagram following, she seems like an inevitable mainstream pop star, but she’s experimental enough to interest pop nerds. She’s also never settled on a style – although at the time of writing she’s still merely in her mid-twenties – vacillating between moody, experimental pop, and hook-filled ear-worms. Here are five of my favourite Charli XCX songs:
featuring Carly Rae Jepsen, from Pop 2, 2017
You’d expect a collaboration between this pair to be a sugar coated pop banger. Instead, ‘Backseat’ is subdued and existential, a meditation on isolation. It’s from 2017’s Pop 2 – Aitchison still hasn’t released an official followup album to 2014’s Sucker – instead labelling her 2017 song collections as mix-tapes.
non-album single, 2013
‘Superlove’ was originally intended as the lead off track for Aitchison’s sophomore album, Sucker. But despite being released as the lead single, it didn’t appear on the album when Sucker was released. It’s different in tone than much of her material, unabashedly poppy and infused with unreserved joie de vivre.
3am (Pull Up)
featuring MØ, from Number 1 Angel, 2017
2017’s first mix-tape, Number 1 Angel, was Aitchison’s first full length release since 2014. It was created in collaboration with A. G. Cook of PC Music, who steers Aitchison in a rawer, more experimental direction. There’s a great pop song underneath, even if its subject matter, vacillating between lust and self-censure, isn’t necessarily radio friendly.
from True Romance, 2013
The lead-off track for Aitchison’s debut album, ‘Nuclear Seasons’ showcases the moody pop that she explored on 2013’s True Romance. Aitchison labelled her first album’s music as “neon goth”, and it’s an apt description, like someone with pop smarts emulating Siouxsie and the Banshees. Love the grainy aesthetic of the video, too.
from Sucker, 2014
The relentless perky beats and driving guitars of 2014’s Sucker can be wearying, but when there’s good material, it’s a massive burst of adrenaline. The onomatopoeia of ‘Boom Clap’ was featured on the movie The Fault In Our Stars, and it’s a great memorable pop song. The beat goes on and on and on and on and….
Do you enjoy the music of Charli XCX? What’s your favourite song?
– Charli XCX album reviews