by Emma Turney
Allie X is one of the most mysterious modern pop stars of our time. She is constantly evolving: through fashion, hair, music, and of course her fabulous bleached brows. But it has always seemed that there’s something hiding behind the persona. Cape God, her second full-length is this place: dark and electric, earthy but imaginative. Her last two projects excelled in their fearless maximalism but Cape God abandons this trope for a more exciting vulnerability. Allie X writes from the perspective of an outsider, transitioning from personal stories into those of her various fictional personas.
The production on Cape God is the greatest difference from Allie X’s past work. The newfound minimalism allows her lyrics and voice to shine. The dark, steady beat on “Regulars” helps tell the story of an outsider who may have found a place, although regretfully. Opening line, “Out in public / ‘Cause I learned a new trick now / See, I’m laughing / Don’t I look so happy now? Oh, wow,” is as depressing as it is empowering. Allie X has an unapologetic sense of self awareness, which continues on standout track “Life of the Party.” In the ode to introverts, she finds herself going against her intuition in a way that changes who she inherently is.
The production may not be at the forefront of Cape God, but it still shines through to create a pretty stellar pop album. The seductive tones of “Rings a Bell” bring a much-needed break from the very serious counterparts. The breathy, echoey chorus is accompanied by a steady beat, making the track to be as appropriate for a dance floor as a chill study session. Similarly on “Devil I Know” the strong beat forces Allie X’s voice forward creating the most catchy song on the record. Unfortunately the track sounds too similar to Arctic Monkeys’ “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” for comfort. However the production at times tends to be overkill, feeling like Allie X is throwing too many ideas at the wall. 80’s inspired “June Gloom” becomes annoying after one listen, and on the other end of the spectrum is “Fresh Laundry,” whose production is sparse and forgettable.
Cape God’s cohesiveness is perhaps its strongest suit. However, in an album that is so cohesive both musically and thematically, it’s obvious when something doesn’t work. The bombastic, “Sarah Come Home” would fit much better on any of Allie X’s past projects with its massive chorus and exaggerated vocals.It is one of her greatest, soaring pop songs and unfortunately just deserved a better introduction to the world.
For the first time, Allie X includes two features on the record.The heartbreaking duet with pop superstar Troye Sivan is one of the best tracks on the album, as it tells two sides of a fight in a relationship. Vocally and musically, “Love Me Wrong” builds to an intense release where Allie X’s voice is shrieking in a way that is somehow pleasing. In a complete opposite twist, indie favorite Mitski features on “Susie Save Your Love”. It magically fits Allie X’s style as much as it feels like it belongs on Mitski’s critically acclaimed Be the Cowboy. The two singers’ vocals blend so seamlessly that you almost don’t know whose voice is whose anymore.
Allie X has been flying under the radar for years as a token supporter for bigger pop stars like Charli XCX or Marina. Cape God seems to be her release from trying to compete with radio friendly pop stars in favor of telling her own story. Vulnerable Allie X is much more interesting than any character she’s attempted before.