Published Apr 09, 2015Pop music has always looked to a bubbling underground to adopt and co-opt emerging sounds — a process that's often thrilling to close listeners, but which at times can seem downright carnivorous. Today, though, with the digital age having shattered the music industry's control of both production and distribution, pop is increasingly eating itself.
Allie X is the latest in a line of emerging artists (like Lorde, Passion Pit and Grimes, to name a few) for whom pop is less a commercial aspiration than a sonic playground in which to play, a musical space now available to them in a manner not necessarily all that different from the Taylor Swifts and Katy Perrys of the world. Perry herself is an Allie X convert, tweeting her appreciation of the transcendent single "Catch" last year, but it's unlikely you'd find her in the sort of eye-masking, platform-spinning series of animated GIFs that helped introduce Allie X to the world. (Or re-introduced, that is, if you knew her as Allie Hughes during her time in Toronto's music scene).
Just as those GIF images are both stationary and in motion at the same time, CollXtion I exists in between its opposites: it's a record too short for an album but too long for an EP; the songs have a clinical coolness to them, yet they're performed with a warm and present immediacy; Allie's powerful voice takes on tones that seem both familiar and foreign at the same time; the record is obsessed with the physical body but bookended by secular salvation anthems; and, like all great pop records, CollXtion I finds a way to both fulfill and defy musical expectations, delivering on its melodic and rhythmic promises while still offering plenty of surprising, earworm-y flourishes along the way. This is a confident, catchy debut. (Sleepless Records)