Album Reviews

EP Review: Charli XCX Protegé ELIO Makes a Strong Impression on Can You Hear Me Now?

On her sophomore EP Can You Hear Me Now?, singer-songwriter ELIO proves herself a formidable challenger in the bedroom pop gauntlet. The Welsh-born Canadian, real name Charlotte Grace Victoria, is a rising star of the indie-pop scene, catching the attention of Charli XCX, who operates as a creative consultant for the 22-year-old.

Throughout the EP, ELIO establishes herself as both a purveyor of Gen-Z indie-pop staples and someone willing to forge their own path through skilled songwriting. Opener “jackie onassis,” depicts abandoning the mundane trap of everyday life and features earnest lyrics (“‘I’ll keep taking antidepressants and count my blessings”). 

The track sounds like bedroom pop’s answer to “Fast Car,” crafting an escapist fantasy while simultaneously deconstructing said fantasy through calls back to reality (“And the world is ending/So fuck the environment, baby/ We can go to dinner in Paris and spend our advances/ Who cares about money and finances?”)

The song showcases a promising skill for both melody and songwriting that appears throughout the EP. Several songs sound like something only a Gen Z-er could write, like on “CHARGER,”  where ELIO uses leaving a phone charger at an ex’s house as a metaphor for the immediate aftermath of a breakup (“I already got my bags/I already cleared the air/Do I even need it that bad?”).

However, ELIO’s age manifests in less clever ways, as seen on “hurts 2 hate somebody.” While featuring relatable, honest lyrics about the personal toll that comes with resentment (“Maybe I should know better /Than wasting time wishing you’re dead”) , the repeated use of the word “salty”—already dated in 2021— somewhat cheapens the otherwise strong track. 

While the album primarily sticks to the musical conventions of bedroom pop— an overall lo-fi production, electronic modifications to vocals and a DIY aesthetic— the EP musically veers of course on penultimate track “When U Saw Love.”

The song starts off strong, incorporating ambient synths and a previously unutilized dance beat; however, it falls apart in the chorus, placing a stuttering effect on both the music and the vocals that renders it incoherent. It is unclear if the “When U Saw Love,” features strong lyrics, as the jumbled production makes ELIO’s voice near unintelligible.

While the musical experimentation could have served as a strong formula break, the song feels out of place on the EP, evoking the soundtrack to a Forever 21 fitting room. 

“@elio.irl” merges the melodic bass lines and gentle guitars of sunshine pop with the electronic harmonies of electropop. ELIO’s voice—an airy warble reminiscent of Clairo—sounds unencumbered and effortless, moving over the melody with ease; not coincidentally, this is also the track in which her voice is the least produced. 

Can You Hear Me Now? is at its best when ELIO’s penchant for crafting beautiful melodies merges with sharp lyrics; while, at times, the album gives in to both poor impulses of tongue-in-cheek Generation Z songwriting and uninspired production, ELIO’s talent cuts through the clutter.

Can You Hear Me Now? is out now.

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