Charli XCX’s ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ is a Self-Learning album

Words by Brinsley Chadavenzi

Restraint and freedom are two ends of the same spectrum, right? With restraint; there’s a freedom in being proud of your choices and commitments. With freedom; there’s a proudness to not give in restraint but all the room to be overwhelmed by excess of choice.

These two states are the best ways to explain the last 2 records pop-futurist Charli XCX has put out. 2019’s ‘Charli’ has the freedom of a joyride moving across a wide sea of friends and sounds; blending electropop, synth ballads, industrial tones and flirtations with dancehall. 2020’s ‘How I’m Feeling Now’ draws from the same world from synthesisers but feels them inside and into claustrophobic settings and commits to peeling emotions.

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how i’m feeling now 🤍 the new album out now link in bio longest caption ever: heres an outtake from the album shoot. all these pics were taken by @huckkwong 🤍 i just wanna take a second to say a huge thank u to all the people involved in the making of this album. this project was a total head rush; exhilarating & emotional from start to finish. i don’t think i’ve ever made an album in such a whirlwind where i’ve been so open & felt so constantly inspired & energized throughout. firstly thank you to all my fans for your constant support & generosity. your ideas & fingerprints are all over this album as much as mine. i couldn’t have done this without u. hugeeee thank you to @agcook404 & @beejburton for being the best & most inspiring producers in the world. working with both of you is a dream. i’ve loved every second. you’re both so ahead & fearless & totally understand & care about my vision. thank u to @dijondijon_ @dylanbrady @dannylharle @jimestack @eliteplin @palmistry_globe 🤍 @geoff_swan thank u for pulling a 36 hour all nighter & absolutely nailing every single mix! thank u @jedskrzypczak for ur impeccable taste & your cool calm head in the face of my ridiculous requests & last minute ideas. thank u to all visual artists involved in this project: @sethbogartofficial @carolineplz @regards_coupables @naked_cherry @tmthy.luke @cwynars @polygon1993 @jonemmony @allisonzuckerman @dan.streit @angelasteps @studionari @charlie__chops & @daniedegrasse. thank u @bradleyandpablo for spying on me from afar (more on that later). thank u @huxley & @beautifuldigital for all ur hard work & expertise. thank u @brandoncreed for being our overlord & leader and to all the team at @atlanticrecords for trusting me & going with it! only fast releases from now on!! finally thank you to @sampringle @kvrowley & of course @huckkwong who i love endlessly. the 3 of you have been isolated with me, woken up to my stresses, panic attacks, hysteria & breakdowns but have still rallied around me and come to my rescue whenever i needed it. i am so proud of us & can’t wait for our 4 person rave tonight. 🤍 love you all, enjoy this album 🤍

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Songs like c2.0 is a spiritual helium of absorbing all your best friends qualities and individualising them into yourself. The trifecta attitudes of Charli, Kim Petras and Tommy Cash gets honed into a piece of spiritual honouring. The ambient bells from ‘Click’ return from Charli almost from the other side, hollowed out but still recognisable. A cherishing of the past through sound.

Her voice does the heaviest lifting on ‘how i’m feeling now’ being placed in; funhouse shapes, stretched across pitches and formants, sometimes being the sole instrument of a moment and electronically transformed. The tension between ambience and distortion, hyperactive drums and stillness, big anthemic melodies and more subtle washes of sound; these fragments were teased across her prior catalogue but ‘how I’m feeling’ intensifies these techniques into emotional registers that are uniquely Charli’s.

All these shapes – both jagged and soft express the frenetic nature of being restrained in a geographical space as well as being restrained in feelings that only be experienced in larger social settings. How I’m Feeling Now is a record made in a short timeframe which puts the focus on honest self-analysis teaching us what the power of emotional honesty and transparency can lead to. If there’s music made for lockdown by a lockdown to feel to, Charli covers us with flying colours.

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