At first listen, it would appear that Allie X (otherwise known as Alexandra Hughes)’s second album, Cape God, is one of those big, shiny alternative pop albums to be filed alongside the likes of Charli XCX and Marina (who she has both toured with). After a few more hearings though, it becomes clear that Cape God has an experimental edge to it that makes it one of the most delightfully weirdest albums of the year.
For example the opening track Fresh Laundry, appears to be simply an ode to sleeping in freshly washed bedsheets. There’s a song called, with an utterly straight face, Super Duper Party People. None other than Mitski, who some may consider a polar opposite to Hughes, appears on a duet, as does Australian teen favourite Troye Sivan. Cape God is not your normal common-or-garden pop album.
At times in fact, Allie X seems to have more in common with Susanne Sundfør – although you won’t find any 10 minute songs with a long chamber music interlude like you would on Sundfør’s Ten Love Songs. Hughes never loses sight of the fact that Cape God is a pop album first and foremost, and that sensibility is threaded through every track on the record.
So, there’s the likes of the hugely catchy Devil You Know (which does bear a more than passing resemblance to Arctic Monkeys‘ Why Do You Always Call Me High), the slinky June Gloom, and even a Fleetwood Mac touch to the chorus of Regulars. It’s also impossible to listen to the swooning orchestral ballad Madame X without being reminded of Lana Del Rey.
The aforementioned Super Duper Party People is, despite the daft title, possibly the standout track: a bass-led anthem featuring Hughes breathily describing the inhabitants of what sounds like a particularly seedy nightclub: “Larry Green is handcuffed, orange like a cheese puff, it’s all in good fun Marcia’s in the bathroom breathing in the bad fumes, something you and I have both done”.
The two collaborations on the album also show a different side to Hughes. Love Me More, the duet with Troye Sivan, is a restrained ballad that shows two different perspectives on a lovers quarrel, while the Mitski collaboration, Susie Save Your Love, wouldn’t seem out of place on the latter’s Be The Cowboy album: the sort of song that sounds unaccountably sad yet impossible not to dance to. Like all good artists, Hughes seems to have the ability when she collaborates to lift both herself and her guest up to another level.
The production from James Alan Ghaleb and Oscar Gorres (better known as OzGo) gives the record a fine pop sheen while also burying all manner of experimentation underneath – the sort of record where you end up discovering new things each time you listen. For anyone who loved Allie X’s debut collection Collxtion, then Cape God will feel like even more of a step up – it has that debut’s charm and nous, but with an extra confidence that often comes with second albums. It also confirms Allie X as one of the year’s most intriguing pop stars.