Following Lykke Li’s debut release- the twinkle-toed ’Youth Novels’- it looked as though Sweden might fast be becoming just as famous for its cutesy bijoux of indie artists as it was for its meatballs and flatpack furniture stores. Those Dancing Days, Jens Lekman, Peter, Bjorn & John….listening to them all was a bit like spending too long in a Swedish sauna: lovely at first, but after a while it just got kind of dull.
Somewhat wrongly categorised previously as the latest in a line of pretty-if-a-little-predictable Swedish pop artists; it’s nevertheless a relief to report that Li’s appropriately titled follow-up ’Wounded Rhymes’ has seen the sweet, coy girl of before go all grown up and mature on us. Where once she was telling us in a babyish coo that she was a ‘dancer all along’; the Swedish songstress is now deflowered enough to growl out that she‘s our ‘prostitute’ and ‘we gonna get some’. And she used to seem like such a nice girl!
It’s a change for the better though, as the off-kilter organs of ‘Youth Knows No Pain’ set the sound for a more mature and well-rounded album than her previous release. It’s not that she wasn’t capable of flashes of nasty before, of course; but now even lyrics like’I Follow Rivers’ ‘…I’ll follow you deep sea baby, I’ll follow you…‘ take on a menacing twist, in a stalkerish, Sting-ing, ‘Every Breath You Take’ kinda way.
That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its prettier moments, though. The strong sense of melody from ‘Youth Novels’ remains, whilst the Spector of Phil’s production that looms over proceedings is never actually exhumed. ‘Sadness Is A Blessing‘ is sweet; whilst the stop-you-in-your-tracks melancholy of ‘I Know Places’ is mesmerising. Yet it’s the Shirelles-y shoowoping of ‘Unrequited Love’ that’s the standout moment here: the sparse instrumentation showcasing as it does just how marvellously unique her voice is; and proving too that for all Li’s new found vixen, she can still just as seamlessly transgress back into that cuddly little cub of old.
In fact, every track impresses here, right the way down to the near-perfect closer ‘Silent My Song’. It’s a fitting end to a record that’s a near-faultless fusion of dreamy codas, windswept melancholic melodies and brash-sexual in-your-endos.
It is, of course, probably much too early to be talking about contenders for album of the year. But….?