In the fast-moving world of music creation, appreciation and consumption, sometimes you just have to put yourself first. Just ask Christina Schneider; the Athens, Georgia-based artist has been involved in a number of different musical endeavours in the past six years – collaborative and solo projects – but by her own admission, she hasn’t always had the easiest time making people sit up and pay attention. Sometimes the right people do; hence, her signing to Brooklyn-based tastemaker label Captured Tracks toward the end of last year, through whom Personalia follows up her 2018 album Healing Contest, her debut as Locate S,1.
For every breakthrough, however, there have been setbacks: Schneider almost threw in the towel on tour for the latter, playing a solo set to a particularly disinterested audience, an experience she recounts on the despondent verses of her new record’s title track (“Drive through thunderlight all alone / Just to play while they’re looking at their phones / Curse another crowd that doesn’t get it”) before rebounding for an ecstatic chorus that brushes the night off as a bump in the road and makes its point while crackling with energy. She redoubled her efforts from there, and this desire to answer her critics has led to the creation of an extravagant second album with a suitably personal slant, its title cribbed from a Mary Ruefle poem that explores similar themes, among them self-worth and betterment.
Co-producer Kevin Barnes (of Montreal) pops up on a few songs, and – returning the favour after Schneider guested on ‘Gypsy That Remains’ from his most recent album UR FUN – has a writing credit on one of its highlights, ‘Even the Good Boys Are Bad’, which is a knowing swipe at toxic masculinity set to an effervescent glam-pop soundtrack. Better still is the frantic opener ‘Sanctimitus Detrimitus’, which adopts a stately waltz for its bare-bones synth-and-vocals verses before ramping things up for a chorus driven by percussive blasts and hectic shifts in time signature and tone, moving so swiftly it’ll make your head spin if you’re not careful. That sort of unpredictability underpins even the seemingly-straightforward songs here, ready and willing to turn on a dime when called upon.
‘Whisper 2000’, meanwhile, is a bubblegum pop track with serrated edges and an instantly memorable bass hook, over which Schneider strives to regain perspective on her self-image while wondering where she and her music fit in, or even if they’re meant to (“Too pink to be grey, too grey to be pink”) before lifting herself up for its chorus (“If you cannot feel my miracle, step away from the vehicle”) as the music shoots skyward. It’s an anthem of self-belief that expresses her desire for her and her art to be viewed on its own terms; not as a token, nor a trophy. Indeed, she goes on to mock that viewpoint on the scathing ‘Hot Wife’, skewering the male gaze over stomp-and-clap rhythms and an endearingly theatrical vocal turn.
“I’ve shorted out, but if I play long enough / I’ll become the person that I wanna be again” was the promise Schneider made to herself on the night of that disastrous performance that laid the foundations for the title track and the resulting album – her second offering as Locate S,1 finds her well on her way to fulfilling it as she pushes herself to make something she can be proud of; throughout its 37-minute duration, it’s buoyed by an experimental streak, nodding to the expansive pop her new label is renowned for one moment (‘After the Final Rose’) and diving into a sea of blissful ambience the next (“Hello”). Its genre-hopping is befitting of an artist ready to clap back at her critics. Brimming with self-confidence – perhaps newfound, perhaps untapped, always welcome – Personalia practically demands your attention, and what’s more, it’s engaging enough to deserve it.