Charli XCX, “Pop 2” (Atlantic)
Charli XCX has already exerted her influence on the sound of pop music.
The co-writer of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” Charli, who scored her own hit “Boom Clap,” likes combining exuberant synthesizer-filled dance music with simple, memorable choruses and a bit of hip-hop swagger. On her new mixtape “Pop 2,” Charli and her pals, especially PC Music’s A.G. Cook, craft a future where that combination could rule the airwaves.
Because “Pop 2” is a mixtape rather than an official album, Charli can simply focus on the songs rather than worrying about whether the album also serves as a proper star vehicle for her blossoming career.
That means Tove Lo takes the lead in the catchy “Out of My Head,” with Charli not appearing until the second verse. It means she pretty much shares the gorgeous “Backseat” equally with Carly Rae Jepsen, disguising her own vocals in layers of Auto-Tune, while pushing Jepsen’s breathy vocals up in the mix.
And, most importantly, it means that Charli can take chances that she might not if the stakes were higher. It’s fun to hear her offer her twist on the Migos vibe with her own crew, including Cupcakke, Brooke Candy and Brazilian drag queen Pabllo Vittar, on “I Got It,” even working a bit of grime influence into it.
That doesn’t mean “Pop 2” doesn’t have its share of straightforward pop songs, though. The poignant ballad “Lucky,” seemingly built mostly out of manipulated versions of stacks of her voice, and the lush “Tears,” which could make a run on radio right now, are both moving and memorable, a side of good-time Charli we don’t get to see very often.
“Pop 2” shows what could be possible if radio was less uptight and more willing to experiment, something Charli XCX has quickly mastered.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Alex Lahey, “I Love You Like a Brother” (Dead Oceans)
In the category of overlooked in 2017 is this Australian punk-pop songwriter whose full-length debut comes on with an abundance of Ramones-y energy and no shortage of hooks. Tender wit is also displayed on the 25-year-old Melbourne guitarist’s tunes like “I Love You Like a Brother” and “Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder.” Shorthand for understanding Lahey’s sensibility: Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen are her favorite songwriters.
DAN DELUCA, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Anderson East, “Encore”
• Joe Satriani, “What Happens Next”
• Camila Cabello, “Camila”
• Umphrey’s McGee, “It’s Not Us”
• Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Wrong Creatures”