First Impressions: Lykke Li Experiences Growing Pains & A Percussion Love Affair On 'Rhymes'

Monday, February 28, 2011

What a difference a couple of years make. In 2008, Lykke Li sweetly shied her way into being a indie pop darling with her debut, Youth Novels. The album sat frothy in an ice cream float of dream pop with single, "Little Bit" propelling the album into "she's just a girl from next door" territory winning over the most frigid of hearts. Youth Novels kept you transfixed as well as gained her black framed glasses push up the nose acceptance, it was still a lucky first shot that just showed a slice of what the Swedish vocalist had in store. Now stomping into the room is the "terrible album #2", Wounded Rhymes and it brings in an avalanche of soulful and introspective tunes that sheds away the precociousness of Novels, and brings that curiosity into darker realms.

Well, this is more like it...

Stark is the main adjective to describe Wounded Rhymes. Gone are slow school auditorium dance confessionals from Novels, in it's place are rabble rousings of percussion with homages to Phil Spector's 'wall of sound' approach, and a sense of confidence. There is an undertone of 1960's girl group influence, but the sequins and frosted eyeshadow have been worn and wiped away and given a 21st century woman makeover. In it's lyrical makeup angst, vengeance, heartache, and sass are present. Lykke's lush coo does seem to swim among the percussion, sometimes getting submerged in all the staggering soundscapes, but somehow that's it's charm and when she climbs out of those holes, she really has a great time.

The wound is opened when we begin with "Youth Knows No Pain", which gallops in and makes a grand entrance that provokes you to go-go boot your way through. Lykke first surprised everyone with first single "Get Some" , which turns the lady into well...a classy tramp, but she so unapologetic about it that it really doesn't matter. A number of "growers" appear on here such as "Unrequited Love" which is a bare bones acoustic wail, that feels so immensely vintage that you're hoping to here some record crackles. Handclaps and foot stomps aplenty give a backbone to the eerie, "Jerome" while "Rich Kids Blues" brings in more of that snide tounge-n-cheek spat that Lykke has laid out nicely on this.

The most prolific track on the set is "Love Out Of Lust" as it rides on a nice, steady cadence and it is beautiful when you get right to it. The arrangement has such a thick atmospheric richness to it that you immediately fall into it's lullaby.

Love Out Of Lust

Another notable moment is "Sadness Is A Blessing" is a heart on sleeve approach that sounds innocent and simple enough, but when Lykke sings, "Sadness is my boyfriend// I am your girl" we get a more complex and morose revelation.

Sadness Is A Blessing

The album's best moment (well, for me) is "I Follow Rivers", which creeps in like the fog and surprises with bouncing keys and tight thunderous percussion. It makes the perfect single, as it's nothing you've heard before, yet is catchy enough to be considered a pop gold nugget.

Like Adele with 21, Lykke Li is also in her twenties and showing her growth as an artist on album #2. I can't help but slightly compare the introspective and somewhat personal audio diaries that these two have recently laid out, due to their subject matter and approach to their emotions. Lykke holds onto her misery, but she's also brash with her execution of shaking her growing pains off. I didn't think she had it in her, as up till now I was just casually in tune to Lykke's sound, but she's really showed how she can branch out her sound and take on some risks, all without coming off like she's trying too hard.

With Wounded Rhymes, she has stepped above what Youth Novels kindly introduced us too, and though most will get a rude awakening with Rhymes' head to the wall percussion drenched vibe, there is something here that is accessible and keeps you coming back listening for more. It's got soul, punch, and attitude, elements that make an good album, into a great one.

Release Date: February 28, 2011 (UK) // March 1, 2011 (US)

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