First, let's just take a moment to admire the cover of Lily Allen's new album, shall we? I love the way she's lounging so glamorously on that giant "L." It's self-centeredness of the cutest kind.
The much-anticipated followup to her debut album, Alright Still, It's Not Me, It's You comes out Feb. 10. Until then, you can stream it online on Lily's MySpace page. After a few listens, the dozen ditties have snagged me with tales of growing up, cleaning up, and gettin' down. For my song-by-song breakdown,
- "Everyone's at It": Allen kicks things off with a number as catchy and slyly cynical as "Smile." Under the guise of sunny pop, the singer, no stranger to self-medicating, skewers our self-medicated culture with an addictive vocal melody and adorable vibrato.
- "The Fear": Lily's sendup of celebrity gossip rags and fashion-obsessed shopaholics feels even more poignant against the recession, and the dreamlike zips and zooms are appropriately hypnotic.
- "Not Fair": Though the melody on this one is flatter than the two songs that precede it, the surprising addition of a banjo to a full-on dance number keeps us guessing.
- "22": Churchlike harpsichords and finger snaps punctuate a tale of woman who ain't 22 anymore. Despite somewhat cringe-worthy lines like "society says her life is already over," I had to grin at truths like "all she wants is a boyfriend / she gets one-night stands."
- "I Could Say": On second thought, being 22 isn't so bad: The narrator has her whole life ahead of her after a lousy breakup. Though this song suffers from some cliched '80s rhythms and synths, I like the strings.
- "Back to the Start": The Rapture meets roller rink. I'm sure I won't be the first reviewer to make this joke, but I find myself wishing this song would go back to the start, when it has an awesome, techno bass beat, instead of careening further into bubblegum pop land.
- "Never Gonna Happen": This track delves fully into the gypsy-music gyrations that Allen only hinted at on her earlier efforts, and I'm totally hooked by the bouncing accordion beats. The rejection song is such a fun, polka-dotted romp that even the person being rejected can't complain too much.
- "F**k You": A pretty piano ditty with a shocking (but not really) profanity-laden refrain. The first sing-song "F**k You" is kinda of cute, but the high-pitched vocal effects get a little tiresome.
- "Who'd Have Known": A sort of turning point in the album arc, Allen turns from cynical to hopeful here, with a Zombies-esque ode to the early relationship butterflies.
- "Chinese": The domestic bliss continues on "Chinese" — as in Chinese takeout. Allen's vocals here sound downright dreamy, and while the song isn't as surprising as the first half of the album, it's well-structured and refreshingly calm.
- "Him": Lily Allen ponders the existence of God. At once frivolous and thought-provoking with a galloping bass line, the simple song poses questions about our creator from the mundane (his favorite band is CCR) to the heavy (terrorists dying in his name). It's not as eye-rolling as it sounds.
- "He Wasn't There": This vaudevillian farewell wraps up the relationship roller coaster with the revelation that "everything's fine," told over old-timey static and a jazzy piano.