New EP from Allie X both exceeds expectations, falls short

“Super Sunset” shows some bold ideas from an artist who has yet to hit her stride.

Allie X is one of many artists creating pop music that plays up an unabashedly synthetic sound in service of an aesthetic that oscillates between dark, dreamy and flashy. This sonic palate evokes the work of other progressive pop artists, such as Charli XCX and Lana Del Rey. On her new EP, “Super Sunset,” Allie X rides these sounds to a completely regular conclusion. The songcraft and production quality on “Super Sunset” is quite high. Despite this, the release offers little in the way of innovative ideas.

“Super Sunset” is a quick listen. It is just 21 minutes, spanning over eight songs, two of which are intro or interlude tracks. The closing track, “Focus,” is the longest song on the release with a 3:47 run time. It is also representative of the EP’s greatest shortcoming, namely, a lack of originality. “Focus” plays into several of the tropes that have come to characterize the pop ballad this year. It’s a low-key number driven by a stripped-down instrumental, which is interrupted by synth breaks following the most basic chorus on the EP. Worth noting, however, is that the production value is still very high—the song does not sound bad, it just does not really stand out as anything special.

“Little Things” and “Girl of the Year” are both upbeat pop anthems. Much like “Focus,” they are genuinely good songs that struggle to stand out even after repeated listens of the release. The more energetic tone, as well as the more detailed production, makes these songs easier to engage with than “Focus.” Allie X’s songwriting is also really decent — “Little Things” is about how small, manageable inconveniences can easily upset people, but some of the more clever lyrics get drowned out by the flashy production. During moments like these, Allie X seems like a promising artist who is still trying to carve out her own distinct lane in a very crowded field. Sonically, several of the tracks on the EP do very little to differentiate Allie X from her contemporaries.

There are a few moments on the EP when Allie X seems to find this lane. “Not So Bad in LA” plays right after the EP’s intro, and is one such stand-out moment. The song makes use of a swaggering, dark instrumental and modulated vocals to offer a satirical commentary on the romanticized nature of moving to Los Angeles, and by extension, fame itself. The eerie production adds a fair bit of muscle to snarky lyrical barbs like “And the Venice girls smile with the whites of their teeth/ All licking their lips for a quick fifteen/ Your appetite fades but you're still starving.”

Another stand-out moment comes two songs later with “Science.” This is most certainly the strangest song on the album, with a spacy and futuristic instrumental that is fitting for the title. Here, Allie X’s lyrical proficiency is once again matched up with production that is as distinct and creative as the words being sung over it. The bridge has the clever line, “I think we might be in our prime/ We're brighter than a socialite in the dark,” where “socialite” also can be heard as “social light.” Lyrics like these really keep the EP’s highlights in the forefront and emphasize Allie X’s impressive songwriting skills.

Fans of the genre will undoubtedly enjoy “Super Sunset.” The EP is certainly well produced, and anyone looking for a fix of synthetic, progressive pop music will certainly find an excellent collection of songs. There are excellent highs for Allie X here, and the lows, far from being bad, just simply do not stack up to the release’s more creative moments.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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