Music Quickspins


CRASH lacks the cohesion and forward-thinking sonics of the work that has defined the recent years of Charli’s career. 

Charli XCX has had one of the most unexpected careers as a pop star in the last decade. Breaking out with a handful of large singles, and features on smash hits “I Love It” by Icona Pop and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” Charli was shot into stardom. 

The first surprise in Charli’s career came in the form of 2016’s Vroom Vroom EP, enlisting bubblegum bass pioneer SOPHIE as executive producer, hot off the backend of her 2015 project Product. SOPHIE was becoming one of the most in-demand producers, known for her deconstructed club sound with heavy left field tendencies, which made this EP cut out for a dance floor in the loudest nightclub in town, and not the FM radio waves. 

After a pair of collaboration-oriented mixtapes, and two more studio albums, Charli has (intentionally or not) become the figurehead of what came to be the “hyperpop” scene, blazing the trail for numerous artists like 100 gecs and Dorian Electra. 

The 2017’s Pop 2 and 2019’s Charli became a harbour for this scene, with an all-star lineup of artists being featured across the tracklists, all while also maintaining the pop sensibility that made her a star. 

CRASH is the most radio-pop project we have received from Charli since 2014’s Sucker. The PC Music label sounds preceding hyperpop that Charli embraced in recent years have dissolved into a more conventional sound. 

CRASH comes loosely packaged with a plethora of pop and dance music influences through the decades. Whether it’s the ’80s synth pop tinted “Good Ones” and “Lightning” to 2000s trance leads and 2-step drums of “Beg For You,” the project lacks the clear cut direction of her last two records. 

Though going over well on Number 1 Angel, which like this project did not have a rock solid sonic identity, CRASH comes across as a bit of a jumbled mess. Disorientingly bouncing from funky guitar lines, to big ’90s gated drums and 2000s Ibiza synths, the variety of sounds on this project can at times mix like water and oil. 

Highlights like “Move Me” and “New Shapes” have immense vocal performances and spotless production, but these highpoints only crop up in the first half, leaving CRASH feeling front loaded. 

CRASH comes as a bitter end to her five album contract with Atlantic as Charli’s TikToks and tweets have not shied away from expressing her frustration towards PR and contractual commitments. 

If CRASH is Charli’s out from this contract, and she was simply trying to just dump a more conventional pop album on Atlantic to sell, then she has done what she sought out to do. Major labels are notorious for editing artists into creative oblivion and CRASH could be a record that’s content got lost in translation. Though she may not have made a product that fully expresses her artistic direction, given full creative control, I am sure future projects will result in a full realization of another pop opus Charli surely has within her. 


Trial Track: “Beg For You” feat. Rina Sawayama 

Rating: 5/10


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Charli XCX enchants Montreal with her futuristic pop

British pop auteur performs a sold-out show at the Corona Theatre

Charlotte Aitchison, known by her stage name Charli XCX, has been experimenting and expanding the borders of pop music since she was 14. She played a sold out show on Oct. 15 at the Corona Theatre during her tour promoting her latest album release, Charli.

The audience was lively and happy, with people of all ages making up the crowd, though the majority were teens and young adults. The northern-England artist’s sound has evolved from witch house to punk, and now borders a dance-pop and electro-pop sound that resonates with youth everywhere.

Charli demonstrates a perfect balance of upbeat futuristic pop, filled with clicks and digital manipulations in both her lively party tracks as well as her slower songs detailing heartbreak, confusion and loneliness. The latter makes up most of her new album, which she performed almost in its entirety that night.

Teeter-tottering the avant-garde while still adhering to mainstream pop, Charli ponders how the future might be with her explosive sound. At Corona, she was just as dynamic as her music, bringing a fun yet reflective vibe to the audience. At times dynamic party pop songs, other times self-examining and introspective, creating this space for crowds alike to reflect.

The show opened with Toronto’s airy yet edgy electro-pop artist Allie X. Later, digital sounds and computer-musings emerged among a large flashing cube before Charli herself came on, wearing a jewel-studded mask covering her mouth and a large shiny coat. She began the show with “Next Level Charli,” the first track off of her new album, then moved on to the more upbeat and cerebral “Click.” Charli’s energy was contagious, going back and forth between slow songs and upbeat bangers. 


She slowed it down again with “I Don’t Want to Know,” which got people swaying. She brought back the energy with the hedonistic 2016 hit “Vroom Vroom,” and then the introspective “Gone” – both a party track to celebrate with others and solo, having everyone singing “Why do we keep when the water runs?/Why do we love if we’re so mistaken?” During “I Got It,” she yelled to the audience to “get down low!”

Although Charli is known for collaborating with many other artists in the pop world such as Lizzo, Yaeji, Sky Ferreira, Troye Sivan and CupcakKe, she still brought the energy to Corona as a solo performer. Then about midway though, Charli brought in a couple Montreal artists and drag performers, giving them each a chance to perform. According to Charli’s instagram, she is continuing to bring on local dancers and artists to accompany her on stage wherever she stops on tour.

Charli then played the Pop 2 version of “Track 10 / Blame it on Your Love,” not withholding the dreamy, squeaky production of the original version. Though most of the show included tracks from her new album, she came back for the encore with past upbeat hits, starting with the electronic and dreamy “Unlock It” and the Icona Pop cover of “I Love It.” She then finished with the bubble-gum pop “Boys,” and last year’s hit “1999.”

Like in her music, Charli brought both an upbeat party energy to the crowd as well as an introspective and contemplative one, making us delve into letting loose while also considering our own personal reasons for it. Charli loves to party, and she continues to remind us to keep it real with ourselves while doing so.


Photos by Laurence B.D.


Quickspins: Brian Eno, Charli XCX, One Direction, Aerosmith

Brian Eno – Lux (2012; Warp)

The Latin word for “Light,” Lux is a return to Brian Eno’s ambient roots and a continuation of his ‘Music For Thinking’ project. This 75-minute, 12-part, four-movement ambient composition was commissioned as a sound art installation for the Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria in Turin, Italy.

Much like the experience of entering a gallery and immersing yourself in art, Lux transports the listener to a contemplative mindspace that continuously shifts and morphs in on itself, changing yet remaining constant. Relaxing, all while being compelling, Lux creates a soundscape of delicate synthesizers, strings and light piano notes that does not demand your attention, but lures you into a half-lucid state like the whisper of a dream.

Eno is also releasing an app to accompany his new album. “Bloom” is an interactive composition program that allows the user to create a Eno-esque sound art installation of his or her own.

Trial track: “LUX 1/2/3/4”

Rating: 8/10

– Paul Traunero


Charli XCX – Super Ultra – Free Mixtape (2012)

The 20-year-old British singer-songwriter Charli XCX is back with a crazier-than-usual mixtape, Super Ultra. The mix, which includes both original music and covers, is a strange blend of pop, rap, hip hop, indie and a touch of techno, all somehow coming together into what the singer calls “Angel Pop.” The intros are inventive, one of which even includes a dialog from Cruel Intentions.

With their perverted lyrics and strange beats, her tracks are incredibly catchy. Lyrics go from angst to rebellious teenager. In “2 Moments in Love” she is a rebel, saying “I just want to get high with my best friend/kiss her on the tongue just like I’m your boyfriend.” But other tracks, like “Forgiveness,” have a little more depth.

Although it is clear that Charli XCX is still trying to find her voice, she seems to be on to something. It’s a sugarcoated mess, but still worth a listen.

Trial track: “Cloud Aura” ft. Brooke Candy

Rating: 6.3/10

– Nathalie Laflamme


One Direction – Take Me Home (2012; Syco Records)

Despite being trite and formulaic, One Direction’s second album Take Me Home is painfully addictive. The tried and tested formula of cheeky guitar riffs, crowd-pleasing choruses and five-part harmonies creates an album that is essentially identical to their first one, except for deeper voices and riskier lyrics.

The album’s strengths lie in irresistibly cheesy pop tracks like “Kiss You” and “Heart Attack,” which are the musical equivalent of over-indulging in sugary junk food. Meanwhile, most of the ballads feel out of place, including British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran originals “Over Again” and “Little Things.” Although they are the best-written songs on the whole album, they are awkwardly dissonant with the rest of the tracks.

There are no surprises on this boy band’s latest effort. It is neither musically nor lyrically creative, but it is undeniably enjoyable if you don’t let your pretensions get in the way.

Trial track: “I Would”

Rating: 6/10

– Suzanne Lafontaine


Aerosmith – Music from Another Dimension! (2012; Columbia)

After an eight year hiatus, Aerosmith is back with their 15th studio album, Music From Another Dimension! In a year filled with comebacks from the likes of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith has managed to maintain its signature sound thanks to Steven Tyler’s energetic and unmistakable vocals, paired perfectly with Joe Perry’s stellar guitar riffs.

The first track, entitled “LUV XXX,” leads us to believe that the band is opting for a younger, more modern sound. Despite the tacky title, Aerosmith still possesses the same great energy and musicality that made them famous back in the ‘70s. Tracks like “Legendary Child” could easily be off of their classic album Toys in the Attic alongside the anthems “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.” From the opening track to the closing track, Music From Another Dimension! will not disappoint diehard fans or even new listeners.

Trial track: “Legendary Child”

Rating: 8/10

-Jessica Romera


Osheaga bigger and better than ever

Fans by the tens of thousands tough out the heat for a day full of music by their favourite artists. Photo by writers.

Like most music festivals, this year’s Osheaga passed by in a flurry of stellar performances, overpriced food, crowded washrooms (crowded everything, really) and free merchandise.

However, this year’s line-up was bigger and better than ever, proven by the almost unreal number of tickets sold. Friday, Aug. 3 was the first day in the history of the festival to be completely sold-out (this was announced a matter of hours after yours truly purchased her own tickets, praise be!) Approximately 120,000 tickets were sold and by the end of the day both the Friday and Sunday performances were completely sold-out.

A blend of household names and up-and-coming Canadian talent, Osheaga sported something for everyone. Headliners for Friday included Justice, Florence and the Machine, Franz Ferdinand, Sigur Ros, MGMT and more. While Florence offered a magical, almost unearthly performance, MGMT brought their music video for “Electric Feel” to life, distributing glow-sticks and psychedelic vibes to all. Sigur Ros, the genre-defying Icelandic band, put on a characteristically unusual and ethereal show and Justice, the last show of the day on the main stages, was an electronic party, with screens flashing brightly on the stage and the La Ronde fireworks exploding into showers of colour over the nearby amusement park.

But the performance that delivered the most surprises was the second Icelandic group on the program (likely a first for the festival), Of Monsters and Men. They were not quite as big a headliner as the above four bands, as evidenced by the fact that they played before sunset and on one of the secondary stages, but they drew an enormous audience (even the band members expressed surprise at the number of people), which was itself enormously enthusiastic, singing along and filling every gap of quiet with cheers and applause. And, despite the rather intense heat in the tightly packed and shadeless standing area, the show was fantastic – I would venture to say that Of Monsters and Men might be better live – and worth the full-body-sweating experience.

Unfortunately, due to the overlapping performances, we could not catch all of the artists who played during our stay, but some of the lesser-known artists that we enjoyed and deserve mention were Yukon Blonde, a Canadian indie-rock band and luxuriant hair collective, who played a really fun show and shared some banter between the lead singer and guitarist onstage. Another was Charli XCX, with a drum set and keyboard decked with flowers and Charli herself in an outfit so outrageous that you (or, at least, I) immediately wanted to be her best friend.

A thorough review of the festival would not be complete without mentioning the impact the sheer number of people had on the experience. In all honesty, it really did take a ridiculous amount of time to get from one stage to another, thanks to the combination of a large crowd and a small staircase. More than one story of people passing out while waiting in line for food and water circulated amongst concert-goers.

Yet, many would argue that this is all part of what makes a festival, well, a festival. The constantly-having-your-toes-stepped-on closeness of bodies and hours spent waiting to buy four dollar water bottles, punctuated by performances by a varied and impressive array of artists, give the experience that certain je ne sais quoi that makes us all proud to say we were there.

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