Lykke Li Lykke LiWounded Rhymes
From girl to woman. Young Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson was 19 years old when she started work on her fabulous debut, “Youth Novels”. A sly child who, today, at 24, presents herself as a self-imagined woman. Tired of the image the album in question left of her, Li takes no prisoners on this new effort. Away with the delicacies and clowning around. Lots of incredible things have happened to her over the past few years and she couldn’t resist letting it all out on a record which, although spikier, sounds taller and bigger, better. Apart from giving the impression that her heart was broken not so long ago, “Wounded Rhymes” presents her as a much more hardened person, especially when it comes to being a woman. “Because you're a woman, the music industry puts you in another corner. I want to be fighting with the men. I want to be amongst the men, topless, throwing things,” she has said. Fascinated by Simone de Beauvoir and Gena Rowlands –the shadow of “The Second Sex” is as long here as that of “A Woman Under The Influence”– the new Li expands the best way she can and, fed up with the impression many people have formed of her, she makes it quite clear she can also be a warrior and nightbird.
If the innocent “Youth Novels” was the waking-up album, then “Wounded Rhymes” is the record confronting adulthood. Li had already warned it would be more direct and violent, and she wasn’t exaggerating. Her soft 2008 dream-pop splashed with electro and soul becomes a kind of industrial blues under the influence of the city of Los Angeles, where she fled to in order to write her album and escape the cruel and boring Nordic winter. The contrasts of the big American city are thus reflected in a bold repertoire, always primary and sexy, that amplifies all the virtues surfacing on its predecessor: her worthy voice, the curious instrumental fabric over which she lets herself go freely and, above all, that exquisite capacity to couple dark and light, salt and sweetness, distance and tact. The muted beauty of these songs, already becoming clear on the precious album sleeve, owes a lot to the ingenious Bjorn Yttling, who once again produces, recovering at times some Spartan textures that aren’t far away from that splendid “Writer’s Block” his own band Peter, Bjorn and John seem to not want to equal.
Musically, “Wounded Rhymes” feeds off three basic ingredients, all of them strongly outlined in black and white: the candour of the Spector wall of sound (the delicious “Sadness Is A Blessing”), the depression of a few ballads that are like fire in the body ( “Unrequited Love”, a huge blues track that could easily be by “Twin Peaks”-era Julee Cruise) and, last but not least, those tribal rhythms that flow through all of the album, like an undercurrent. It’s that African influence made with rudimentary Hammonds, which we’ll call industrial, which sets this record apart the most of all from “Youth Novels” and which gives the most clues of how to place Lykke Li in the present pop panorama: as a wolf in sheep’s clothes, very near to her fellow countrymen The Knife and Fever Ray, if you prefer: “Silent My Song” and “I Follow Rivers” could easily be by the Dreijers. Alongside those two, and without forgetting the refraction on the big screen by Tomas Alfredson and his lauded “Let The Right One In” (2008), “Wounded Rhymes” could be give us reason to talk about a Holy Trinity that could replace an image of Swedish prim and twee insipidness that was beginning to bore.