Under Review: Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
When you’re lucky enough to find out about an artist around the time of their debut, it’s a thrill to see where there budding career takes them. For Swedish songstress Lykke Li, the electro-pop of her debut was a jumping-off point for an engaging, confrontational live show. Youth Novels, enjoyable as it is, too often delves into sparse, glacial ambiance; the disparity between the recorded versions and her exciting live arrangements was quite striking. With Wounded Rhymes, Li again joins creative forces with Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn And John. The album is both a reiteration of Youth Novels’ highlights and an improvement on its handful of shortcomings.
The strongest tracks on Youth Novels deftly balanced dancefloor beats with playful and emotional melodies. Wounded Rhymes brings the inherently conflicting essences of thumping electronics and somber sentimentality closer together in a series of songs that provoke, invite and reflect. Bjorn’s production on Wounded Rhymes centers on primal percussion and growling keyboards. The album wastes no time in establishing this theme on opener “Youth Knows No Pain.” Lyrically, the song doesn’t quite shrug off the youthful tones of Li’s debut, but there is something decidedly grown-up sounding about the new material. Nowhere else is this more apparent than on lead single “Get Some,” whose chorus features an arrestingly direct come-on: “I’m your prostitute/You gon’ get some.” She’s speaking figuratively of course. Isn’t she?
Elsewhere, Li explores a few sides of strictly non-garage girl group pop (“Love Out Of Lust” and the soaring “Sadness Is A Blessing”) and gets intimate on “Unrequited Love.” Wounded Rhymes boasts its share of dynamic moments, with hooky gems arriving in “I Follow Rivers” and “Rich Kids Blues.” As much as “I Know Places” delicately smolders, the song (and its unexpectedly long coda) probably should’ve been placed at the very end of the set. As it is, the actual last song, “Silent My Song,” is pretty great on its own, but it stands that Lykke still has a little bit of refining to do. In many ways, Wounded Rhymes surpasses its predecessor in terms of consistency and cohesion. Lykke has also done something that precious few newcomers do: leave room for continued progress.