Album Reviews

Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

(Atlantic) UK release date: 28 February 2011

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

There are parallels between Lykke Li‘s and Yeasayer‘s first and second albums. Both split their audience into two camps: one camp hails the existence of the year’s best pop record, while the other squirms slightly, keeps their head down and quietly admits that they just don’t get it.

Both sophomore albums are made up of energetic, instant pop songs, with at least one certified festival anthem (Lykke Li’s being I Follow Rivers, Yeasayer’s being O.N.E) and most importantly, both promote a slightly mystifying sub-plot that alienates an awful lot of listeners: Yeasayer’s was a difficult-to-grasp concept about the technology generation and Lykke Li’s is a story of defeat after a flourishing affair. Each leads the listener into unnecessary territory; looking at Wounded Rhymes like it’s a dramatic break-up record distracts us from the sheer might of some of the songs and the genuine sense of optimism that works as an undercurrent.

Get Some, for instance, throws us into the middle of that affair. Instead of overwhelming us with obnoxiously emotional content, it initiates a sense of fun that much of the record lacks. We need not even look at it in the context of Lykke Li’s experiences.Instead, we can immerse ourselves in the bold, pounded drums, the shrill, dry guitars; satisfied at just how well it works as an album centrepiece.

The dull, grey tones of the album’s art and the song titles on their own suggest much of Wounded Rhymes follows a different route.Perhaps that’s why Get Some works so well; planted right in the middle of the album, totally different from everything that surrounds it. Out of all the weighty, impassioned efforts, closer Silent My Song, with its sluggish, heavy-footed pace, works best. You feel a great sense of relief as it reaches is supple, peaceful climax; such is the ferocity of what precedes it. That’s not to say that you don’t find yourself wanting to go back to Wounded Rhymes immediately after: it’s a thoroughly addictive record, one perfect in its length, flow and structure. The exchange between delicate minimalism (I Know Places and the piercing, affecting Unrequited Love) and gung-ho, dense pop(Jerome and the confident opener Youth Know No Pain) is executed brilliantly.

That said, Wounded Rhymes remains a challenging listen – not your conventional pop record. Lykke Li continues to be an oddball, a fascinating character. Earnest and upfront, at times she leaves you feeling intimidated. At other times, the album works magnificently; more so than anything on her breakthrough debut.

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More on Lykke Li
Lykke Li – EyEye
Lykke Li – So Sad So Sexy
Lykke Li – I Never Learn
Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
Lykke Li @ Heaven, London