Allie X is an unsung Canadian heroine of pop music, and if you haven’t heard of her, you’re worse off for it. Though she has garnered a cult following amongst the niche pocket of pop music fans scattered to every corner of the Internet, Allie hasn’t received the attention other fellow contemporaries in the same situation have, such as Charli XCX or Carly Rae Jepsen, despite her status as the go-to songwriting partner for pop favorite Troye Sivan. However, it’s through no fault of her own — those who follow her know of her knack for clever pop songwriting and for her pristine and sonorous vocals, which she often blends with punchy visuals and a theatricality one can only find a close comparison to in Lady Gaga. Just shy of two years earlier, she released her fourth EP Super Sunset, a project that leaned into her longstanding influences of 80s pop music and distilled them further by way of synthwave, and which she paired off with a flashier and more colorful version of her image than we’d seen before. That record also saw Allie coming to terms with her successes and failures as a burgeoning pop star, allowing her to express a greater vulnerability than exhibited before in her material.
Cape God, Allie X’s second full-fledged studio album, finds her reinventing herself once again as she divests herself of her 80s imagery and influences on the opener “Fresh Laundry”. She takes an introspective slant to her lyrics as she finds herself questioning her identity and seeking a change in her circumstances. Here, the production is starker than her prior work though still electropop and firmly in her wheelhouse, but the grungy acoustic guitar riff lends an alternative rock tinge to her sound she hasn’t experimented with before. She carries her new sound into “Devil I Know” where she depicts her struggles with a toxic relationship with herself that she can’t fully give up and holding herself accountable for enduring the abuse, as she attempts to reason it away with the false equivalency that it’s better she remains in the situation she’s become acclimated with. “Regulars” builds upon the foundations of the alternative rock she laid with the album’s beginnings but never losing her pop framework, as she sarcastically sings of sacrificing her individuality in order to fit in with the rest of the society. The lyricism here makes it clear that Allie is fully aware of the self-destructiveness at play as she attempts to shed her outsider status to become one of the “regulars”, even if it means blindly following them into situations she knows to be perilous. She adds inflections of disco on “Sarah Come Home”, where she offers reassurance and safety to a friend who is lost in their own turmoil, with the hopes that her friend and Allie herself can find a better mental space together.
“Rings a Bell” finds Allie entranced by a love interest and experiencing a feeling of déjà vu, almost as if she has known them before. The beat here is hypnotic and smooth, properly conveying the dreamlike state Allie’s delirious vocal performance hints at, and infusing a bossa nova-like element to sell the mesmerizing mood. Utilizing a funky and buoyant beat as juxtaposition, “June Gloom” complements Allie’s depressive lyricism where she has immersed herself in a state of melancholy and has shut herself off from the outside world. There’s a sense of sarcasm here, as though she is making fun of her circumstances with her refrain sounding purposefully like a playground tease. She drafts her frequent collaborator Troye Sivan on the ballad “Love Me Wrong”, where she and Troye both lament that though their respective family members show outward signs of affection, they still fail to fully comprehend and accept who they are and therefore, are incapable of giving them the unconditional love they deserve. Both give impassioned vocal deliveries as the production distorts their vocals at the song’s emotional climax, and both come to the conclusion that they cannot be the idealized versions of themselves their families want. “Super Duper Party People” is a dance-floor ready anthem that proves Allie’s vision for the album, with her voice is dripping in irony as she sings about taking drugs and engaging in sexual behavior at a party. However, the details in the song’s narrative as well as the verbiage chosen makes it clear Allie doesn’t believe the party is anything more than a distraction from her other issues. It’s a moment that works for her due to the attention she pays to its lyricism, as in another artist’s hand, it could easily tip over into enjoyable party fodder.
“Susie Save Your Love” sees Allie bring in Japanese-American indie-rocker Mitski to plead with a friend who is overly obsessed with a boy to the point of desperation. The production leads into a slower take on the disco-influenced sounds prevalent in other areas of the album, with the two artists offering support to their friend in need and expressing their own unrequited feelings for the titular Susie. “Life of the Party” serves as the album’s most energetic and catchiest moment as it finds Allie reminiscing in the aftermath of an eventful night where she was the most popular person at a party, and not wanting to forget this moment in her life. The song could also double as an allegory for Allie’s own experiences with fame as she started her career as a promising new face for the music industry and not wanting to forget that moment, an experience she alluded to on Super Sunset cut “Girl of the Year”, and belying her habit of being self-destructive in the name of success and popularity. “Madame X” takes the album down to a lush piano ballad, though cinematic strings akin to a James Bond soundtrack production keep things arresting as Allie turns to drugs in an effort to tackle her traumas and numb herself. Thematically, this song does most of the heavy-lifting to build the album’s world, as Allie includes several nods to the East Coast here. On the album closer “Learning in Public”, Allie bemoans her growth in the public eye but comes to terms with her sense of self, and reconciling her past with who she is in the present day. The production allows her to be wistful with a sense of hope, breezily casting her demons aside in order to embrace what the future holds for her.
On Cape God, Allie X focuses on creating a project that challenges her lyrically and forces her to be more personally meaningful. With the help of producer Oscar Gorres, Allie has found a new sound as well that allows her to experiment whilst maintaining her strong pop sensibilities. Fans of the pop star may struggle to adjust to her new direction, but there is much to enjoy here and the record builds upon on the artist’s past experiences to create an engaging listen. If there is any major criticism overall, it’s that due to Allie going for a more minimalistic sound, the album overall has a subdued mood in relation to past records. However, given the subject matter and what she is able to accomplish with her new sound, one could argue this album is a necessary step forward for Allie X.