The Scene: 6/20/2012
By GRANT JAMES
Charli XCX : “You’re the One” (EP)
The UK’s Charli XCX is one of the most talked-about artists in the underground pop scene. Her first proper single, “Stay Away”—released last June—received a large amount of praise from various blogs and websites, and created buzz for the then-18 year old singer. When her second single, “Nuclear Seasons,” was released in November, she was already making a name for herself. Charli (born Charlotte Aitchison) is a very strategic singer. She’s releasing enough to keep people interested (and to build a fan base) before the release of her debut album—out this fall in the UK—with a spring 2013 release in America.
Her debut EP release, “You’re the One,” unfortunately only brought the release of one new single, the title song—“You’re the One”—with the inclusion of a previously-heard single, “Nuclear Seasons,” for which the single “You’re the One” is the perfect follow up. With an incredibly catchy chorus, and beautiful hooks, Charli reels you into her world—one which you’ll have no intention of leaving. She’s influenced by various 90s pop icons and films—The Craft, Cruel Intentions, American Beauty, and The Spice Girls, among others. All of these influences were sampled on her newly-released mixtape, “Heartbreaks and Earthquakes” (which released on the same day as the “You’re the One” EP). When speaking of her music, Charli says she wants people to think of “colors”—or “colours,” if you’d prefer—when listening. She says for her, it’s black, pink, and gold. I concur.
Fiona Apple has never really had an easy life. Raped at the age of 12, cheated on by ex-boyfriend and director P.T. Anderson (who left to marry comedian/actress Maya Rudolph), and most recently a break-up with American author Jonathan Ames (who is most notable for creating the HBO series “Bored to Death”). Fiona has never been known to make “feel good” music, but the pain and suffering on “The Idler Wheel…”—which has a full title that, at 23 words, is a bit of a mouthful– is without a doubt borderline worrisome. The album itself is reason enough to consider a Baker Act examination for the 34-year old New York-born songstress.
On opening track—and first single—“Every Single Night,” you see her internal struggle as clear as day: “Every single night’s alright/every single night’s a fight/and every single fight’s alright, with my brain/I just want to feel everything.” Apple’s husky vocals and troubling lyrics—combined with the album’s raw alternative jazz/rock sound—force the listener to face her demons, head-on. “Daredevil” is perhaps the album’s most aggressive song, with opening lines “I guess I must just be a daredevil/I don’t feel anything until I smash it up,” shortly followed by the hook, “And don’t let me ruin me/I may need a chaperone.” She continues the next verse with, “Say I’m an airplane/and the gashes I got from my heartbreak make the slots and the flaps upon my wing, and I use them to give me lip/hip hip for the lift hip hip for the drag.” “Valentine” shelters more self-destructive lyrics. “You didn’t see my Valentine/I sent it via pantomime/While you were watching someone else/I stared at you and cut myself/it’s all I do ’cause I’m not free/a fugitive too dull to flee.”
While some of these songs may seem like a pity party, they’re anything but. The performer recently told Pitchfork.com, “This is the stuff that I really needed to get out. This is the excrement of my life, the excrement I was trying to exorcise out of me.” Personally, I think creating music as a form of therapy is a healthy, noble effort. Making music for others to relate to may be more engaging, but as an artist, making music for the sake of your own psyche is the most important thing.
Admittedly, “The Idler Wheel…” (which is unabridged-titled, “The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do”) is hard to get through: It’s dark and psychotic, and at times Fiona comes off downright hopeless. While the songs are incredibly hard to digest, this is Apple in her raw, real form. Be prepared—there are no gimmicks, no quirky upbeat singles. The album is balls-to-the-wall insanity, holding hands with a crippling depression. Apple may have finally gone off the deep end (she recently said in an interview that she doesn’t like leaving her house, and she tries to avoid new places), but in the end, the album ends up forcing you to explore the deepest, darkest parts of your mind. Fiona may be in her darkest hour, but fortunately, she’s also at the peak of her brilliance.
Making a SCENE
GWEN THERE, DONE THAT 90s Ska/Pop rockers No Doubt announced that their first album in 11 years finally has a release date and a name. “Push and Shove” is due out September 25, with the first single dropping in early July, entitled “Settle Down.”
FULL OF GRACE Model, actress, and Andy Warhol muse Grace Jones Hula Hooped her way through an entire four-minute song for HRM Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee concert—without skipping a beat. Slave to the rhythm.