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~ The Musician
Lykke Li is a 27 year old singer-songwriter hailing from Sweden. Following the success of her musical career, she also went into modelling. (If anyone is interested in the various photos I have of Lykke with Cheerios, please contact me after the review.) She released her debut album Youth Novels in 2008, and 2011 saw her follow it up with the album Wounded Rhymes.
I grew to admire Lykke Li after hearing the infectiously poppy "Little Bit". However, I was disappointed with the rest of the album Youth Novels, as it never quite lived up to the first single it produced. Apparently the rest of the world disagreed, as Lykke went on to have sell-out tours across the globe. After that, all went quiet for a while as she became a "feat." on various other artists' songs (including a few tracks of Röyksopp's, where she really doesn't sound like herself at all).
Lykke's musicality blends electronic, indie and pop, while her singing style is characterised by her slightly gravelly voice. In range, she is a soprano, but personally I prefer her lower pitched singing voice. All of Lykke Li's music is in English.
~ The Album
Like Youth Novels, Wounded Rhymes was produced by Björn Yttling (one third of Peter, Björn and John - responsible for that notorious whistling song). I could really hear his influence in Youth Novels, which was for the most part light indie/pop, but Wounded Rhymes is impressively and starkly disparate to that which came before. This is even apparent in the abstract monochrome album art.
Lykke said that during the six-month writing and recording of the album that she drew influences from "visiting the desert, rewatching Alejandro Jodorowsky's 1973 film The Holy Mountain and listening to Alan Lomax field recordings," eventually coming up with songs she calls "hypnotic, psychotic and more primal".
For a start, the lead single Get Some is about sexual power (the music video is also heavily inspired by Illuminati iconography). It has a strong tribal drum-beat and various quite interesting warblings from Lykke during the bridge. I'm pretty sure Little Bit is about being a passive participant of sex, so it's a nice change to have a song about power-play, apparently inspired by Haruki Murakami's Wind Up Bird Chronicle. It also features the impressively unequivocal lyric, "Every shotgun, / Needs an outcome. / I'm your prostitute, / You gonna get some."
However, you won't get to hear Get Some for around 25 minutes, as it's the fifth track on the album. The first song "Youth Feels No Pain" is a noisy birth, with the odd layering of a vaguely burlesque tune with some extremely loud drums, but it's not too bad. Probably the song I'd most like to hoover to. It's the fourth single released, but it went mostly unnoticed, for somewhat obvious reasons.
I Follow Rivers is the second single and also the second track on Wounded Rhymes. I love this song, it hits all the right notes (ha ha, double entendre) between soul and pop. It's also, essentially, a song about stalking a body of water. As a metaphor for loving someone, of course, which is just what the world needed. "You're my river running high, running deep, running wide." Cheers Lykke. A worthy #1 on the Belgian, Italian, German, Polish, Romanian and Greek radio charts at time of release (it didn't chart in the UK, but the remix got to #2 in Ireland).
The next song, Love Out of Lust, could have been a let-down after I Follow Rivers, but... it isn't. It carries over the strong drumbeats that would feature heavily in Get Some and incorporates it with something ethereal and strange, even mournful ("rather die in your arms than die alone"). I have no idea why it wasn't a single, but at least as album filler it's allowed to be vaguely self-referential, "we can cross rivers will our will, we can do better than our cares." So that's nice. This is one of the songs on the album where Lykke affects a deeper tone of voice; I have to admit she sounds the most appealing when impersonating Barry White. The song isn't too long or too short, either, at just over 4 minutes.
Unrequited Love is awful, so let's move on as quickly as possible. (Lykke Li wasn't built to sing country music.) Again, Get Some is great, it makes me want to hunt down and wrestle a panther. Rich Kids Blues, though missing an apostrophe, is both petulant, possessive and moody. If this doesn't make it onto the OST of some dark teen movie, I don't know what will. "I got the rich kids' blues, and it got nothing to do with you." Oh, the pathos.
Sadness Is A Blessing is the third single released, compared to the former two, it's rather more sedate. I actually surprised myself by liking this song, as I'm not a fan of ballads. It's terrifically depressing - "sadness is my boyfriend, for sadness I'm your girl" - and in the music video Lykke even makes Stellan Skarsgård cry with her awful dancing. (May have been because she looked like a drug addict, but that's the Lykke I, er, like.)
I Know Places is the slowest and more folk-inspired song on the album. The male backing singer gives an added depth to the song, but within 2 minutes of its 6+ minutes duration the song starts to drag. Definitely a song you have to be in the mood for (and that mood is crushing despair).
Finally, Jerome is a strange song. As a more electronic song it has more to do with Youth Novels than the rest of the tracks, but it has a similar atmosphere of moodiness to the rest of the tracks on this album. The lyrics of this song are probably the weakest, but Lykke sings them well. Unfortunately, although I love this song whenever it comes on, I can't for the life of me remember the tune or the lyrics after the song ends. Even so, I truly wish Jerome had been the last track on the album, as Silent My Song should have just stayed silent. Silent My Song isn't as bad as Unrequited Love, but a similar feeling of misadventure stymies it.
Like Youth Novels, nothing on the album is quite like the lead single, but on Wounded Rhymes, it doesn't matter. This is down to the album sounding diverse - the dance and pop songs and mirrored by slower, melancholic tracks. However, it doesn't stray into motley territory either, the album is unified by the exploration of raw emotion - jealousy, lust, fear of losing someone, and despair.
Sometimes, though, the dirty and hungry aspect of Lykke's style doesn't necessarily translate to a music I like to hear. Though my overall opinion of the album is high, there are several tracks on Wounded Rhymes that I simply dislike. Even so, Wounded Rhymes is still an album I enjoy experiencing and I would recommend it. Well worth all the accolades and awards it received.
~ Critical Reception
Wounded Rhymes was praised for Lykke Li's darker, sexier and edgier style in comparison to predecessor Youth Novels. Metacritic scored it 83 out of 100 based on 34 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Various other websites and magazines marked it similarly.
Wounded Rhymes made various yearly album lists: Entertainment Weekly ranked it at number three on its list of the 10 Best Albums of 2011; Pitchfork Media placed it at number forty-three on its list of The Top 50 Albums of 2011 and PopMatters ranked the album at number twenty-three on its list of The 75 Best Albums of 2011.
Wounded Rhymes also won 'Best Album' in the Swedish Grammy Awards; Lykke Li also won 'Best Artist'. The remix of "I Follow Rivers" by The Magician won the Festival Anthem of The Year 2012. (I didn't really like this remix, but it isn't included on the album, so that's fine.)
~ Track List
1. "Youth Knows No Pain" - 2:59
2. "I Follow Rivers" - 3:48
3. "Love Out of Lust" - 4:43
4. "Unrequited Love" - 3:11
5. "Get Some" - 3:22
6. "Rich Kids Blues" - 3:01
7. "Sadness Is a Blessing" - 4:00
8. "I Know Places" - 6:06
9. "Jerome" - 4:22
10. "Silent My Song" - 5:24
~ Purchasing Information
Release Date: 28 Feb 2010
Label: Atlantic Records UK
Total Length: 40:56
Audio CD (28 Feb 2011)
Number of Discs: 1
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Youth Knows No Pain
2 I Follow Rivers
3 Love Out Of Lust
4 Unrequited Love
5 Get Some
6 Rich Kids Blues
7 Sadness Is A Blessing
8 I Know Places
10 Silent My Song