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2010s Reviews

My perception of the 2010s has been a decade where pop music has flourished, as well as hip hop and electronic music. It’s not surprising people have gravitated towards escapism in this decade of environmental concerns and Donald Trump as President of the United States.

The following 2010s artists have their own dedicated pages.

HAIM
Jason Isbell
Carly Rae Jepsen
Kimbra
Janelle Monáe
Nadia Reid
Taylor Swift

This section collects album reviews for 2010s artists who don’t quite qualify for their own full page.

Charli XCX | Charly Bliss | Sky Ferreira

Charli XCX

Number 1 Angel

charli-xcx-number-1-angel2017, 7/10
England’s Charlotte Emma Aitchison is almost the archetypal millennial musician – you know you’re from the net generation when your stage name is taken from your teenage MSN Messenger handle. Of part Indian heritage, Aitchison experiences sound-to-colour synaesthesia, where she sees sounds as colours. In many respects I feel too old for this album – Number 1 Angel is often crass and hedonistic, and I have no idea who most of her guests are. But Aitchison has an inherent pop sense, and Number 1 Angel features some terrific pop songs, so that it’s frequently on my spin list.

Collaborating with A. G. Cook and PC Music, Number 1 Angel was designated as a mixtape rather than a full album; Aitchison preferred to reduce expectations for her followup to 2014’s Sucker, and eliminate record company politics, and quickly recorded Number 1 Angel in 2 weeks. Aitchison has been a stylistic chameleon throughout her career – Sucker was guitar based – but Number 1 Angel mines an electro-pop sound, that’s just boundary-pushing enough to give her some edge. Her voice is a major asset, full and rich, but bursting with a crass joie de vivre.

‘3AM (Pull Up)’ is one of the highlights, its lyrics wavering between lust and regret, culminating in the memorable “pull up pull up” vocal hook. ‘Babygirl’ is straightforward smooth R&B, although Uffie’s cameo gives it some tension, but the hook is so strong, that it works despite the sugar overload. Those are my two favourite tracks, but there are also strong vocal hooks on ‘Dreamer’ and ‘Drugs’.

I don’t love all of Number 1 Angel, but the best moments keep me coming back to it.

Pop 2

charli-xcx-pop22017, 8/10
Not content with just one album masquerading as a mixtape in 2017, Aitchison released Pop 2 in December of the same year. Collaborator A.G. Cook stated that they wanted it to feel like a “restart” in terms of image and style after Number 1 Angel, but it essentially feels like a more accomplished and more adventurous sequel. It’s less reliant on the force of Aitchison’s personality than Number 1 Angel, and it features more solid album tracks to backup the highlights.

Just like Number 1 Angel, there are a pair of standout tracks. Firstly, the opening Carly Rae Jepsen duet ‘Backseat’, which contrasts Aitchison’s deeper voice with Jepsen’s sweet, high tones, as the pair sing a verse each, before disassembling into a closing section where the two treated voices duel each other. Jepsen’s “I got a thirst for distraction that I can’t take back” is a beautiful line, a shining moment in a great pop song. ‘Femmebot’ is the only song that Aitchison wasn’t involved in writing, but she’s a great front-woman for the sassy words, and the chorus is the album’s most ingratiating hook. There are some great album tracks buried towards the end of Pop 2 – the shimmering synths of ‘Unlock It’ juxtapose with the jarring vocal hook, while ‘Track 10’ invigorates a straightforward, catchy pop song with auto-tune experimentation.

‘Backseat’ is one of my favourite pop songs of the decade, and there’s plenty of fascinating, experimental yet accessible pop music on Pop 2.


Charly Bliss

Guppy

charly-bliss-guppy2017, 9/10
Original guitar pop is a difficult task in the 21st century, and Charly Bliss are understandably a throwback to the 1990s. Debut album Guppy combines the fast-paced, hook-filled songs of early Weezer, but with a female vocalist they’re also reminiscent of other 1990s acts like Belly or Veruca Salt. If it all sounds unoriginal, these songs are so memorable and jammed with hooks that it’s immaterial. Guitarist Spencer Fox stated “We had to create an ecosystem where our loud, messy rock sounds could co-exist with these super catchy melodies and pop hooks.” The band label themselves as “Bubblegrunge”, which is also an excellent descriptor of their sound.

Vocalist and guitarist Eva Hendricks has a tinge of helium in her distinctive voice, but it simply allows the band’s supple melodies to shine.  It was really about realizing what we’re best at as a band.” Hendricks is both witty and sincere on songs like ‘Glitter’ – “Am I the best? Or just the first person to say yes?” Charly Bliss get plenty of mileage out of a four piece setup, and their chord structures are interesting enough to stand up to repeated listening, although synth on some tracks helps to vary the textures. It’s difficult to pick favourites off such an even, excellent album, but highlights include the punchy ‘Black Hole’ and the memorable dead dog to lover comparisons of ‘DQ’.

Despite its clear debt to the 1990s, Guppy is a great little record, a burst of energy and good natured humour.


Sky Ferreira

Night Time, My Time

night-time-my-time2013, 8.5/10
Sky Ferreira is a Los Angeles songwriter, actress, and model, who first came to attention through her MySpace demos as a teenager. On her debut album, Night Time, My Time, she works with producers Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, HAIM, Madonna) and Justin Raisen, who are able to achieve a perfect balance between pop accessibility and edgier sounds, that prevents Night Time, My Time from sounding like mere designer angst. Rechtshaid and Raisen also provide most of the instrumentation, while Ferreira’s voice is an asset, rich and expressive. Night Time, My Time blends 1990s alternative rock with 1980s synth pop, so songs like the dissonant, guitar heavy ‘Omanko’ and the infectious dance pop of ‘You’re Not The One’ follow each other in the track list.

My favourite track blends the two approaches – ’24 Hours’ features a dance beat and twinkling keyboard hook coupled with vocal urgency and driving guitars. On the poppy end of things, ‘You’re Not The One’ features a memorable guitar hook over a dance beat, while ‘I Blame Myself’ is gentle and soul searching. There’s more intensity in ‘Heavy Metal Heart’ and ‘Nobody Asked Me (If I Was OK)’, while the album is at its most experimental with the dissonant ‘Omanko’, and the title track, which ends the album with a drone.

Mixing poppy hooks with a heavy guitar attack and more esoteric moments, Night Time, My Time was a deserved critical favourite, and one that’s taken Ferreira a long time to follow up.

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