Life is made up of conflicting memories, unfulfilled growing pains, shame that has never healed, questions that never find answers and unlikely expectations that we're unmercifully holding ourselves to. So much of our growth and development comes from past pain and trauma. It's often hard to take the pieces of your past, your present and your future and fix them together in some perfect jigsaw where all can coexist and make sense. 'Collxtion II', the second full-length from Allie X, begs the question: is it OK for things to just not make sense sometimes?
Born Alexandra Hughes, Allie X emerged on the scene as something of a mystery but now she's peeling back the layers, ready to reveal more about herself. Her debut album 'Collxtion I', released in 2015, was a critically lauded, supercharged pop record that explored the world of X. X is the universe Allie has created for her fans,
and even more so for herself. It's a place that provides a sanctuary for those unresolved fragments of self, those parts of you that still don't feel whole or fulfilled.
X is the place where one can go when they need reassurance that everything doesn't need to be certain and defined at once. “I'm not an obvious pick,” she says of her rising star thus far. “I've always had to find hidden roads to be understood.” “When I was a kid, I was always hiding my teeth, my body, my personality to fit in. I became very good at it,” she explains further. “I would dress myself in a way that hid imperfect shapes and stay quiet so that my weird sense of humor didn’t throw off my friends' boyfriends. All I ever had working in my favor was my music – it helped me navigate my way through life. I got to become a persona of myself, and that made me feel stronger.” Allie feels as though something got lost along the way - a sense of who she is at her core. “I feel confused as to how much of my personality is pure, for lack of a better word, and how much is informed by pain, fear, and ultimately what makes people like me” she says.
The artwork for “Collxtion II! reflects that, featuring Allie as an adult in a juvenile pose, wearing a dunce cap, trying to put the blocks of her life back together. “This album is an exploration of who I have become,” she continues. “Each song on this album can be thought of as a piece of me. Some are memories, some are dreams, some are my interpretation of reality.” X is therefore a reclamation of Allie's true self. It fills in the empty spaces with possibility. For Allie, exploring that sense of uncertainty is merely the theoretical aspect of the story of X. The other more tangible, actualized tale is that of an esteemed songwriter who has had to grapple with the trials and tribulations of a fraught music industry. While 'Collxtion II', the follow-up to 2015's EP, reflects that notion of building the blocks of your own identity, the process of making the record was also something of a protracted, piecemeal task. The songs began to take form after the debut's release and were worked on over a year and a half, eventually requiring Allie to take a breather from her new home of LA where she pursued a day job as a songwriter for hire (she most notably co-wrote Troye Sivan's 'Youth' and half of Sivan's debut LP 'Blue Neighborhood'). Returning to her native Canada, Allie realized the songs she'd been working on for 'Collxtion II' needed to be stripped down again and re-built to give her a new sonic identity. Being back in Toronto gave her clarity. "I looked at what I had and realized it was all over the place sonically,” she says. Burying herself in writing, Allie came up with the likes of 'Paper Love', 'Vintage', and Simon Says'.
“All my favorite songs on the album came at the last minute,” she laughs. Setting up a studio at home, she took charge of the production and arranging again before eventually returning to LA to work with producers Jordan Palmer, Cirkut, and Billboard who helped finish the record over the final two months of 2016. Although a sequel to 'Collxtion I', the sound of the album is far more diverse, nuanced and rewarding. 'Casanova' feels very post-Disclosure, whereas 'Paper Love' has a Major Lazer dancehall beat and 'Vintage' could almost pass for tropical house. 'True Love Is Violent' is a gut-wrenching romantic ballad. There's more of a rhythmic looseness throughout the ten tracks and a sexier edge. In short, it's far less clinical. “That was a choice,” explains Allie. “I've been influenced by a lot of modern music.
I was ready to explore the lower part of my voice and more minimalism. I've evolved and naturally my ears have evolved with me. I felt it was time to give my music even more of a sonic identity.” Having listened to a lot of instrumental-driven artists such as Aphex Twin and new lo-fi pop from Drake, James Blake, Sohn and Zhu, Allie changed her old process of layering upon layering, instead pairing herself back to the least amount of parts she could use. When it comes to the journey of the character X, 'Collxtion II' expands upon the story Allie's alter ego has previously taken. With every album comes another chapter in the story of X: a girl who spins too hard and trades places with her shadow. Via the songs contained, Allie studies the feelings of shame and embarrassment that come with not feeling complete. It's relatable for anyone who feels detached or confused about who they are.
X gives you a freedom to be imperfect, a lease to create your own truth, even if it's transient. “I guess I am just a sensitive person in a cruel world,” she explains. “Via my music I try to build this protective world. That's what X is – being able to wipe the slate clean and make yourself anonymous as a form of protection.” There's no shame in that at all.