Sweden: land of musical opportunity. It also happens to be the birthplace of Lykke Li, popstrel and she of the wistful childlike voice. Wait, did I say childlike voice? Because that’s so 2008. No, we don’t want Lykke to be pining and all lovelorn any more. Instead we’d like her to be a little more hard-edged and devil woman. Wait, she’s done that? On her new album?
Yes, gone are the days of ‘Little Bit’ and quirky ballads like ‘Tonight’ because even on album opener ‘Youth Knows No Pain’ she sets out her statement of intent. Lovely and charming as previous opener ‘Melodies and Desires’ was, it can’t compete with the sheer bombastic nature and suggestive elements of this tour-de-force. It happens to be one of the best songs on the entire record but who cares if it’s over in the first minutes? It’s job is done: this is new Lykke, plain for all to see.
Second single ‘I Follow Rivers’ comes next and its power follows on from ‘Youth Knows No Pain’ as Lykke bears her slightly torn heart and unleashes the beast: it’s not quite as suggestive as some of her other works but is still attention-grabbing and some may recognise that little distorted voice technique at the beginning from her debut album Youth Novels – it’s the same one used at the start of ‘Breaking It Up’ which is coincidentally quite similar in tone, if not power.
Some controversy surrounded her first single from Wounded Rhymes, ‘Get Some’: here it fits in perfectly as a balance between some of the torch songs that surround it. Before things get a little bit “deep”, ‘Get Some’ goes for the jugular with its rather racy lyrics: ‘Like a shotgun needs an outcome/ I’m a prostitute/ You’re gonna get some’ she chirps, wide out in the open with only a short drum beat accompanying those provocative lines. Of course, we could never believe Lykke really is that but it’s still a powerful image of female dominance and assertiveness that she just didn’t display on her sweet and innocent debut.
Elsewhere Lykke is in a bit more of an insular, pitiful mood. ‘Sadness Is A Blessing’ seems to embrace singledom with a pinch of regret and loneliness as she croons ‘sadness is my boyfriend’ – it’s perhaps the second most startling image on this album and the fact that the melody almost sounds like a celebration rather than a lament adds to the mystery behind it. Similarly, ‘Love Out Of Lust’ combines the beefed-up musical sensibilities of this album and combines it with some of the more romantic images found on her debut: it is beautiful and shows that she hasn’t lost faith in her own emotions. Somehow she is more in touch with them here than before.
However, Lykke isn’t about to abandon all the fans who loved her for her chirpy, wistful little ballads. Some of Wounded Rhymes happens to be comprised of slower torch songs such as ‘Unrequited Love’ which shows off the range of her vocal talents perfectly. Somehow it’s not hard to imagine her sitting beside a campfire with an acoustic guitar wailing this into the night.
Wounded Rhymes on the whole though doesn’t succumb to tired clichés of love and falling out of it: instead Lykke’s tougher image raises this above her previous effort and destroys the myth that she is just a gentle inoffensive popstrel. For all those who didn’t like Youth Novels for one reason or another give Wounded Rhymes a go: you’re likely to be very pleasantly surprised.
9 OUT OF 10