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SXSW Showcase Reviews

Reviewed by Luke Winkie, March 16, 2012, Music

Charli XCX

Central Presbyterian Church, Thursday, March 15

Despite the solemn, gothic mood emanating from the pew-seated crowd gathered at the Central Presbyterian Church, Charli XCX emerged like she had just finished signing autographs backstage. Decked in a fashionable tablecloth top, shredded stockings, and a hairstylist's masterpiece, the British-born Charlotte Aitchison rocked the microphone like it was a daily routine. She slinked; she writhed; she gazed passionately into the sky with absolute fearlessness. It was pure playhouse pop, parts of the audience overwhelmed by her consummate gall. It was strikingly easy to forget the woman is a scant 19 years of age with only two tracks to her name. In fact, the whole show could've been digested as a sneak preview of a wayward debut album. The new songs were unblemished by even the slightest scent of subtlety, instead opting for ravenous, magenta synths and skull-shaking percussion, with Charli XCX switching between a gloomy, full-bodied roar and a fast-rap chirp. "Nuclear Season" and "Stay Away" remain her greatest accomplishments, and at this point, their crossover seems inevitable. Sure, Pitchfork featured her next to alt-icon Fiona Apple and blog topics Purity Ring and Grimes, but make no mistake: Charli XCX is a pop star at heart.

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