REVIEW BY: Melanie Love
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/16/2011
First Adele’s second album became a smash hit, and now Lykke Li’s latest smashes it out of the park – score one for girls turning their heartbreak into something triumphant. Though she’s popular in her native Sweden, Li is probably best known for her song “Possibility,” which was featured in Twilight: New Moon along with a slew of other hipster-approved acts. All implications of Twilight aside, Li herself captures a keen sort of youth and longing in her songs. They are dark and intense (though they were recorded in Los Angeles), full of the frustrations and yearnings of love.
But with producer/co-composer Bjorn Yttling (one/third of Peter, Bjorn & John, of Swedish pop fame) at her side, Li injects an edgy dance groove into this set of songs. This is pop with a certain grit to it, a studded-leather-jacket style swagger. Makes sense why the lead single is “Get Some,” which is as much a threat as it is a come-on (complete with the line “Like a shotgun needs an outcome / I’m your prostitute / I’m gon’ get some “).
Opener “Youth Knows No Pain” sets the tone for what’s to come with its rumbling tribal percussion and sultry bassline. Li’s voice is powerful and feminine, almost evocative of the soulful sirens of the ‘70s like Stevie Nicks or Grace Slick: cool, self-assured, sexy. Paired with the subtle percussion, staccato and chirps of guitar of “I Follow Rivers,” Li’s vocals simply seem to flow. Meanwhile, she is breathily gorgeous on “Love Out Of Lust,” which somehow manages to soar despite how subtle and restrained the instrumentation is. As she sings, “We will live longer than I will / We will be better than I was / We can cross rivers with our will / We can do better than I can,” it’s nearly impossible not to fall in love with this album from the sheer, aching beauty of this track.
The sparseness and longing of Wounded Rhymes makes sense knowing that it was recorded in a stint alone in the desert for a period of time. That mood is evident on “Unrequited Love,” a soulful, modern take on ‘60s pop (the “shoowop-shoowah” backing vocals, the clean, simple guitar line that anchors the song), which finds Li both reaching out and hopelessly alone.
Building upon the youthful energy of her debut, Youth Novels, this disc emerges sounding like a more cohesive take on her first record’s sound. The songs aren’t quite as catchy this time around, but what they lack in hookiness they make up for in maturity. Replacing the coyness and flirtatious charm of her earlier vocals, Li is assertive and smoky here, especially on “Get Some” and “Rich Kid Blues.”
Awesomely enough, there are no weak tracks on this album. There are some that are slower and moodier than others –closer “Silent My Song” with its dramatic swells and the reveling-in-misery “Sadness Is A Blessing,” which proclaims “Sadness is my boyfriend / Oh, sadness, I’m your girl.” Other songs, like “I Know Places” strip back all the lushness and keenly focused production. But from start to finish, Wounded Rhymes is excellent and nuanced. Though the music was recorded in a period of heartbreak and darkness, Lykke Li herself emerges as a bright force on the music scene. Here’s hoping to lots more where this record came from, and for us music-lovers here in the States to appreciate what Sweden has been on to for years!