Swedish songstress Lykke Li is back after three years since herÂ debut, Youth Novels.Â Her new disk, Wounded Rhymes, is a 10-track journey through the lessons of youth and young love, and is packed with melodramatic pop hymns and redemptive gospel ballads. Or is it?
Oddly, the overall tone of this album appeared more optimistic at first glance and less â€œwoundedâ€™ than her debutâ€”almost as if the two titles should be switched.
As a cynic, it took a few spins of this record to appreciate it. On her debut album, I loved the quirky innocence of â€œEverybody but Meâ€ and the morose introspection of â€œHanging High, so I was disappointed when the first two tracks on Wounded Rhymes sounded like upbeat youth chants. However, upon closer inspection, it seems Li might have been sending us a warning.
In â€œYouth Knows No Painâ€ she sings, â€œCome laugh away who you are and get down / Cut yourself to pieces / Give yourself completely.â€ When youâ€™re young itâ€™s easy to fall into an escapist attitude, partaking in whatever comes your way, as experimentation seems the quickest route to freedom. The title then reflects not happiness but numbness. Similarly, â€œI Follow Riversâ€ seems to be a song about destruction disguised as commitment. In the music video, Lykke is following a man through â€œdark doomâ€ tundra, almost following him into the ocean– hence, by proving our love and dedication to someone who is self-destructive, we might end up drowning ourselves.
â€œLove Out of Lustâ€ is a heartfelt, thundering ballad about experiencing love, even if itâ€™s just sex in disguise, while â€œRich Kidâ€™s Bluesâ€ evokes images of Andy Warholâ€™s Factory.Â â€œI Know Placesâ€ is the most reassuring track here (especially the last two instrumental minutes) and is undoubtedly my favorite, although thereâ€™s definitely an underlying sadness to these still waters.
â€œGet Some,â€ with its addictive tribal beat (a la M.I.A.) and bold, carnal video (a la Lady Gaga), might have you thinking this song is about sex, when more accurately it seems a satire on media prostitution (which makes me wonder what Lykkeâ€™s opinions on Gaga are).
The closing track, â€œSilent My Song,â€ is a devastating dirge, but through its shades of suffering, it actually becomes devastatingly beautiful. Still, if you thought â€œPossibilityâ€ was Lykke at her most vulnerable, listen to this track.
Not many artists have the guts to open a vein and let it bleed through the entire record. But experience and success change everything, for better or worse; youâ€™re in the realm of extremesâ€” sex and death, no turning back.Â Iâ€™m not sure if this is what Lykke intended, but this album quite literally feels like being stranded on a sheet of ice alone, as it starts to crackâ€¦ So perhaps this album is for wounded cynics after all.