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Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

FOR an artist who struggled to be inspired for her second album, Lykke Li has come out trumps again and the results are highly inspiring.

Wounded Rhymes is a sumptuous successor to her equally brilliant Youth Novels debut, benefitting from the presence of Peter, Bjorn and John producer Björn Yttling and Li’s uncanny ability to mix ethereal, Bjork-like vocals to distinct but unique pop.

It’s also a dark collection of work, ‘inspired’ as it eventually was by the aftermath of a relationship break-up. Crucially, though, it doesn’t drag you down, while Li’s tortured psychology gives rise to some fascinating lyrical observations and imagery.

Throughout, Swedish native Li sounds majestic… her distinct vocals flirting on occasion with the classic sound of Dusty Springfield, while channelling those ethereal qualities of Bjork. She sounds hopelessly innocent and fragile at times (Love Out Of Lust), and sexy and playful at others (I Follow Rivers).

But no matter what mood or feeling she is channelling, her album is never anything less than mesmerising.

The template is set from the opening seconds of first track Youth Knows No Pain, which drops a kick-ass percussion and loads of hazy ‘60s organs as well as an emphatic vocal. It encourages the listener to “come together and join the parade”, while driving them forward amid toe-tapping beats and head-spinning organs.

Former single I Follow Rivers then follows, combining an almost Depeche Mode-esque synth arrangement with more finger clicking beats and curious lyrical moments such as: “You’re my river running high, running deep, running wild, I will follow you…” It boasts a genuinely catchy chorus, yet one that subverts the expectation surrounding such things by avoiding the term ‘pop’.

Li is clearly a woman with her own sense of identity and she’s not really channelling anyone, even though you can detect a hint of Kate Bush at times. Li’s material remains very much her own, though, and it’s a thrill to be a part of it.

The quality continues with Love Out Of Lust, which combines atmospheric percussion, a whistle solo and moody synth arrangements with a disarmingly fragile vocal, and Unrequited Love, which strips things right back to a sparse, toe-tapping beat, an acoustic guitar and a broke-down vocal that laments the unrequited nature of her passion.

Get Some then picks up the pace once more, dropping a scuzzy bass-line, some rollicking percussion and the sexy, provocative declaration: “Like a shotgun needs an outcome, I’m a prostitute, you’re gonna get some!”

The momentum is maintained throughout Rich Kid Blues, while Sadness Is A Blessing manages to find some room for optimism among Li’s personal gloom as well as a ‘60s piano pop vibe that draws the Springfield comparisons (or, for more contemporary folk, Duffy). But once again, the song maintains a distinct sense of its own individuality… while inviting listeners to throw a big hug around her with lines like “sadness is my boyfriend”.

Thereafter, Li’s sense of ambition and scope continues to grow. I Know Places, for instance, offers a little over six minutes of acoustic blues, tinged with gospel backing, that are genuinely disarming, before changing pace at the three quarters point and expanding things into a beautiful instrumental of soaring synth and guitar arrangements. It’s utterly beguiling and richly cinematic.

Jerome, meanwhile, picks up the pace once amid dense, rolling drums and impassioned pleas to a lover about making promises never to leave.
And Silent My Song draws things to a close with a brooding slow-build approach, during which Li questions whether she is living or merely holding on. It’s an exemplary way to round things off.

The only hope upon listening to Li’s latest masterpiece is that the record buying public embraces her brilliance this time. It’s a tour-de-force record to rival PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake that really demands a wide audience.

Download picks: Youth Knows No Pain, I Follow Rivers, Sadness Is A Blessing, I Know Places, Silent My Song, Get Some

Watch the video for Get Some:

Track listing:

  1. Youth Knows No Pain
  2. I Follow Rivers
  3. Love Out Of Lust
  4. Unrequited Love
  5. Get Some
  6. Rich Kid Blues
  7. Sadness Is A Blessing
  8. I Know Places
  9. Jerome
  10. Silent My Song