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Album review: Charli XCX, 'True Romance'

*** (out of four)

Some of the best songs on British singer-songwriter Charli XCX’s debut album, “True Romance,” have been floating around on the Internet for a couple of years, but, if anything, they seem more relevant than ever. There’s a very conceivable future in which this brand of washed out, distorted electronic music is all over pop radio, and gifted songwriter Charli XCX seems like a solid candidate to make that happen. In fact, Charli XCX’s collab with Swedish duo Icona Pop, “I Love It” has already been creeping up the charts.

Offering a more approachable, immediately arresting version of the type of hazy pop that’s been percolating for the last few years on Soundclouds and Tumblrs, Charli XCX takes music that often seems to exist in a bubble of vague feelings and makes it concrete. Like a well-curated page in those online venues, her songs are a postmodern swirl of influences and subcultures: There are hints of Robyn in her lyrically frank dance tracks, moments of Kate Bush-style gothic melodrama, bursts of jarring restlessness that channel Grimes, hip-hop-indebted language and a flop-facedown-on-the-bed brand of teenage angst. It’s the perfect soundtrack for anything from a somewhat-edgy sleepover to a slightly-too-drunk night out.

Charli XCX’s lyrics are direct explorations of relationships with all the associated swells of excitement, moments of vulnerability and bursts of post-breakup frustration. Previous singles “Nuclear Seasons” and “Stay Away” are still crashing, slow-burning highlights, but they’re joined by the frenetic “You (Ha Ha Ha),” the fractured, Auto-Tuned modern romance anthem “What I Like” and the sighing, pulsing “Grins.” The only real misstep is “Cloud Aura,” which features an uncomfortable verse from blog-look-turned-rapper Brooke Candy.

Mostly, though, Charli XCX offers the promise that all that weird indie electronic stuff your friends called you a hipster for listening to can be fun even for people who don’t spend all day on the Internet. Put her album on at your next party or just wait until you hear it at everyone else’s.

In concert: May 20 at Vic Theatre

Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic

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Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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