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  • Vanessa Siebrass

Album Review: "Girl With No Face" - Allie X


Photo: Allie X via Bandcamp


Canadian avant-pop songstress Allie X has released her latest album offering, entitled "Girl With No Face." This album offers the best of both worlds; it fully embraces and invokes the familiar nostalgia of the 80s with all of its synth-heavy pop, yet simultaneously provides the unique creative perspective and vision that only Allie X can breathe into life. The artist has described this album as bold, indulgent, and aggressive. The encompassing theme of identity is reflected throughout the album's title, cover art, and music videos. Allie X likens the journey of creating this album to a type of death, the dissolution of previous identities. She is still in the process of her evolution, having not yet fully formed a new identity, and appreciates the flexibility and protection masks can provide throughout such transformations.



Tracklist


Weird World

Girl With No Face

Off With Her Tits

John and Jonathan

Galina

Hardware Software

Black Eye

You Slept On Me

Saddest Smile

Staying Power

Truly Dreams



Born as Alexandra Ashley Hughes but better known to the world as Allie X, the singer is no stranger to facing and overcoming adversity. The release of her previous album, "Cape God," in early 2020 saw the artist facing not only the onset of the global pandemic but also suffering a relapse of the autoimmune illness she has endured for over twenty years. This forced downtime, however, presented Allie X with a unique opportunity - to take on the challenge of self-producing an album for the first time. The artist thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating "Girl With No Face, calling it '...the most me thing that I've done.' Allie X also directed the music videos for both Weird World and Black Eye.



Track 1 - Weird World


Listed as the tracklist opener, Weird World is the fourth album release. Brightly infectious synth-pop beats usher us in, emphasized and accentuated by darker, slightly sinister elements. The music provides a sonic playground for Allie's voice to explore, at times giving the impression she's daydreaming or distracted, her vocals a bit softer, more rounded. However, quick as a flash, those vocals shift to a laser focus, hitting higher, sharper, and becoming stridently clear. 'Oh, the light shines through the linen/Der Morgen beginnt singen/I don't want to dream anymore/Oh, they tell me that I'm stubborn/Treffe meine Wahl im Zorn/I don't want to dream anymore.' This song is a celebration of the artist's eccentricities in an industry that constantly pressures compliance and conformity.





Track 2 - Girl With No Face


The second selection for the tracklist, as well as the second album release, Girl With No Face, serves up more synth vibes. More predominantly dark and gothic in feel, get an assist from some deep, brooding base notes and crunchy guitar riffs. Combined with the multiple facets layering haunting background vocalizations and ethereal lyric delivery, the title track provides a rich sonic soundscape for the listener to immerse themselves within. Allie X explains that she was forced to examine herself while in isolation, peeling back her layers to make a raw, honest assessment. In the end, the process enabled the artist to release and work through some emotions that had been troubling her for some time. 'She's never done/This is her fun house/And she's the one/But you'll never find out/And look at you, you're such a mess/You want more, but you end up with less.'




Track 3 - Off With Her Tits


Another delightful example of synchronicity, Off With Her Tits serves as the third track and album release for 'Girl With No Face.' A well-known advocate for both women's rights and LGBT rights, the artist crafted this tune for those who suffer from gender dysphoria and its accompanying societal stigma. While the overall music here is dark, in alignment with Allie X's current era, it also embodies resolve and brighter elements symbolizing hope and acceptance of self. These emotions are perfectly encapsulated in the song's catchy and dynamic vocal delivery. 'One day out of nowhere/My chest began to rise/He noticed in the shower, said he liked it, and I cried/I'll never be a lady/Why make me feel a fool?/Take this flesh and suck it out/And stop the ridicule/Stop the ridicule.'




Track 4 - John and Jonathan


Darkly dramatic and exquisitely crafted synth music and effects, coupled with Allie X's mysterious and alluring vocals, intertwine to create the album's fourth offering. Partially inspired by actual events, this track shares the story of a gay couple, John and Jonathan, who caught a 2018 Allie X show in New York City's Bowery Ballroom. After acquiring some merch, the couple had a chance to meet the artist, who took delight in the similarity of their names, musing that perhaps one day she would craft a song featuring the pair's names as its title. When reunited for a 2021 interview regarding Allie X's then-new single "Mistress Violet," John was shocked as the artist started riffing the opening portion of this track - 'John and Jonathan are on the town/John and Jonathan, they go up, they go down/At the Bowery, in line they wait/They will stay all night, then wake at eight.'





Track 5 - Galina


Part prayer, part desperate plea that the artist knows will never actually be heard, Galina is a surprisingly melancholy journey whose inspiration is drawn from real-life interactions. Suffering from eczema flare-ups, Allie X met Galina in a naturopathic clinic, using the healer's ointment to help soothe her skin condition. The remedy provided such relief that she wondered what she and others like her would do if Galina retired. Sadly, not only has Galina since retired, but she suffers from dementia, meaning that the recipe for the healing salve will forever remain a secret. If sheer emotion alone was enough, Allie's vocal performance would shatter the cold prison of dementia and Alzheimer's that holds so many captive. 'My hand's turning' red and dry/She keeps sleepin' in her bed/My face crackin' in the light/Her lips part, the tiniest smile/Galina, wake up/I'm running out of luck/And I get so ugly without you/Now open your eyes/Help me make it through the night.'





Track 6 - Hardware Software


One of the album's shorter tracks, this track is delightfully unhinged and campy, featuring a decidedly robotic/computerized flat-affect vocal quality. At the same time, the music itself is lively, conveying more emotion, even incorporating video game nods. (Some very Tetris-reminiscent musical vibes start around 40 seconds in, and honestly, this is one of my favorite song details). This type of tune could easily find itself at home on the Original Soundtrack for a dystopian, futuristic video game. This song falls flat, lyrically speaking, and is one of the album's 'weaker' tracks. 'My hardware is getting too fast/I need to slow down honey, wanna make it last/And my software is kicking me in the gut/It's gonna get me soft like a pillow top.'




Track 7 - Black Eye


The album's first single, Black Eye, is an absolute banger of a song. Jam-packed with as much dark 80s gothy synth as one could possibly desire, this track assaults the senses in the best possible way. High-energy and dramatic, Black Eye immediately sinks its musical hooks in, refusing to relent until the song's conclusion. The breathy vocals at the start suddenly explode into a crescendo of defiance and challenge. Like a Japanese Daruma doll, this song parallels the singer's ability to pop back up after being knocked down. 'Oh, hit me, hit me with that super pain/'Cause a hit feels like I'm dancing in the rain/Give me that beat/There's no need to cry/It's just a black eye, yeah/Hit me, hit me with that super bass/'Cause I want tonight to slap me in the face.' The artist shared her fundamental belief - that if something causes pain, it's working; if there's no pain, something is wrong. She clarifies that she doesn't think others should feel this way, but, 'it's a fucked up thought that never goes away.'





Track 8 - You Slept On Me


Harnessing all the frenetic energy of some of the most beloved and iconic 80s classics, You Slept On Me comes in like a sonic whirlwind, an earworm of the highest order. An exquisite pop-dance synth symphony, this cheeky tune is Allie X's playful nod to fans' concerns about the singer not being given the artistry recognition she is due. Sassy vocals dripping with attitude convey a persona poised to take the industry by storm and swallow it whole. 'I held my tongue for about long enough/It's about damn time that I spoke up/I'm an icon, honey, this isn't a chore/And I need to make money, so give me yours." The question, however, remains - does the artist feel slept on? Allie X shares that she would prefer being slept on to being considered overrated.





Track 9 - Saddest Smile


A poignant and touching ballad, Saddest Smile, is one of the most beautiful tracks on this album. Although this is another comparatively short track, the song has an undeniable impact. The brooding, melancholy music captures a heavy, visceral sensation of sorrow from which escape feels impossible. There is a sweet surrender and acceptance in the vocals and a triumphant freedom that's reached when her voice soars to caress and linger over those stunning high notes. 'When I'm sad, I don't cry/I put on my saddest smile/Used to kick, I used to bite/Now I've lost my appetite.'





Track 10 - Staying Power


The album's tenth track, Staying Power, feels like a classic, slightly generic, dance-pop offering. There's something about it that falls short for me when compared to the level of creative artistry that Allie X incorporates into the album's other tracks. The music and vocals here are less dynamic; fewer variations in sound and tone result in a one-dimensional and less sonically robust final product. Lyrically, this is excellent, but I wish the delivery packed more of that familiar avante-garde punch of Allie X's creativity. That having been said, this is by no means a 'bad' track - it just doesn't rank amongst my favorites. 'Don't want to be a victim, but I want your sympathy/Don't want to be religious, but life brought me to my knees/I've got so much to say to you that I want you to know/But I don't wanna scare you off, I don't want you to go.'




Track 11 - Truly Dreams


The eleventh and final track is a lovely album closer. Another beautiful offering, filled with angelic vocal runs and upbeat, hopeful music. This track is a subtle negation and rebuff to the opener, Weird World, in which the artist seemingly relinquishes her dreams, 'I used to be a dream girl/But the world interfered.' In Truly Dreams, however, Allie realizes that regardless of what life, time, and circumstance may steal away, her hopes and dreams remain an indelible part of her spirit. 'But I keep dreaming/And if it's not enough, then/I'll just keep my hopes and dreaming/With all my might, just listen/Truly dreams never die/They never die.'





Undoubtedly, Girl With No Face will rank among my top 2024 albums of the year. Allie X continually challenges herself, digging deeper to deliver even more of herself to her eagerly awaiting fans. The artist's creativity, vision, and degree of execution are constantly improving and evolving as she processes life experiences and incorporates them into song. Allie X kicks off her Girl With No Face Tour at the end of May, featuring international and North American performances. If you can catch a gig, I suggest you do so! If not, I encourage you to explore Allie's back catalog, particularly "Cape God."


Written By Vanessa Siebrass



*Copyright not intended. Fair Use Act, Section 107.

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