Heartbreaks And Earthquakes Mixtape
21:00 min • charlixcxmusic.com • June 11, 2012
With our biggest pop music exports at the moment being One Direction and The Wanted, with reality tv show after reality tv show slowly killing pop music as an artform, here to give pop a big kick up the arse with her massive vintage platform Buffalo boot is Charli XCX.
From covering Athlete (in what is one of the best covers I have ever heard – check out her version of Wires on youtube) to touring with Santigold and Coldplay and being remixed by Odd Future, you’d think the whole world would know about Charli XCX by now. Just a browse through her soundcloud profile and her two previous mixtapes, made up of songs she likes by women Supergirls Superlove and the bro’s before hoes version I Like Boys Who Cry shows you how eclectic her tastes are. From hip hop, to vintage 70’s rock, to current dancefloor fodder (the good kind, not the bad kind) her mixtapes include everyone from Lil Wayne to David Bowie, Hole, Azealia Banks and the Spice Girls. Now THAT’S a DJ set I’d like to hear.
Charli XCX (Pronounced Charlie XX) has been around for a while. From the Crystal Castles-esque demo of ‘I Wanna Be Darth Vader’ to her 2008 Klaxons sampling electropop EP !Franchesckaar! though a collaboration with the man of the PopStep moment Alex Metric as well as the beautifully autotuned chill of ‘Lost In Space’ with dubstep guru Starkey. Last year she released the dubstep swag pop song Stay Away and the electropop single ‘Nuclear Season’, all building anticipation for her album, due out in October. Till then we have the You’re The One EP (which, incidently, should have been out at the end of July, but doesn’t seem to have materialised) and this… the glittering Heartbreaks And Earthquakes mixtape, her longest collection of original material so far.
At points this mixtape could have been made by me. Samples from films I still love from my teenage years, notably The Craft and Cruel Intentions, with a little of American Beauty and Kill Bill, Volume 1 thrown in, 20 year old Charli obviously has flawless taste (either that or she raided my dvd collection) and the snippets weave through this collection of laptop-love-songs perfectly.
The dark and dirty dubstep of opener ‘Champagne Coast’ is as if Charli is hiding behind PopStep starlet Delilah’s door with a chainsaw. “Come into my bedroom,” she pleads, with a growl that recalls industrial rock’n’rollers Jack Off Jill, before unleashing a wailed hook that reveals Cyndi Lauper as an inspiration. Dark electronic elements make up most of the soundscape here, and the stuttering distorted drum on snippet ‘How Can I?’ (worth more than its short 1:09 mins exposure on here) beautifully surrounds her cry of, “How can I fix what I fucked up?”
‘Grins’ is a lush slice of two step dark pop delight, and comes on us like grunge-folk beauty Polly Scattergood listening to the 1st Sugababes album. Its lyrics,
I can’t quite here what you’re saying.
Because my body’s started shaking –
and the ever present vocal growl that gives Charli her edge stops her from sinking under the wave of ElectroPopStep artists flooding the market since Goldfrapp and Lady Gaga made ElectroPop fashionable again. The sonic bliss of ‘So Far Away’ sounds like being dumped to ‘Since I Left You’ by sample lead band The Avalanches, whilst ‘Dreams Money Can Buy’ is gorgeous bedroom breakup TripPop. It hits you with its hip hop beat and gorgeously abrasive spoken verses,
If you do I’ll go psycho,
But I know you kind of like that, uh oh –
and a haunting chorus of, “Don’t fuck with me, don’t fuck with me…” ending with Ryan Phillipe’s breakup speech to Reece Witherspoon in Cruel Intentions.
‘Lock You Up’ has an authentic ’80s vibe, with its synths and its, “I want to lock you up inside my heart,” refrain, teasing us at an upsettingly short 1:24 mins.
The laid back trance of Spoon is perfect for a warm summer night, and what sounds like a standard garage banger takes a nasty turn when, with her usual underlying growl, Charli sings,
I hold your heartbeat in my hand…
You’re not getting away again –
before a distorted soul vocal jumps in
This is where I lose my balance…
I think I’m about to fall, deeper and deeper –
and as the song builds and melts away, we are also teased with a short burst of the amazing Odd Future remix of new single ‘You’re The One’.
There’s something delightfully unhinged about Charli XCX. Not in a bad way – fucked up pop princesses with a taste for the nasty and the dirty have always been at the top of my playlist, and Charli sounds like ripped fishnet tights and New Rock boots stomping around a r’n’b club on a Saturday night. As far away from the mainstream as you can get, yet still crammed full of pop hooks. She makes Delilah sound like Dido!
Now, as this mixtape is free (and has got me very excited about Charli’s forthcoming album) I won’t dwell on its length. At just over 20 minutes, if I need more of a Charli XCX fix I can easily listen to it again (and again… and again…). And whilst there’s nothing revolutionary or innovative about Charli XCX, there is something subversive about her use of urban sounds with a gothpop sensibility, and there is certainly enough on this mixtape to keep me interested. There’s a classic alternative singer songwriter sound that purveys Charli’s work, like Amy Studt on a night out with Nadia Oh (yes, that’s a compliment) and that constant dark growl in her delivery, matched with perfect radio hooks sung in her upper pop register. She swears, she threatens, she dumps, she cries…and I’m loving every bit of it. Let’s hope the resulting debut album doesn’t try to polish her rough edges too much – that’s what makes her so special.