24 year-old Lykke Li seems to have been on tour since the ever-mounting success of her album Youth Novels in 2008. Where this indefatigable young Swede found the time to write and record this album is anybody’s guess. One thing she didn’t do, is rely on the initial success of her smart, after-midnight twist on electro pop. The small historical influences on her debut (the tasty 1930s sliding brass riff in ‘Dance Dance Dance’ for example) are now to the fore and with no apologies. Wounded Rhymes sees the successful plundering of ’50s soul through Spector’s Wall of Sound, country music and, quite possibly, Lady Gaga.
Give yourself over to the opener. A promising kettle drum intro leads into a fuzzy organ sound and her ballsy, confident vocals kick in and the whole thing is so steeped in the golden ’50s that you can almost imagine her on a black and white TV, dancing on a small circular podium. Except this feels not so much a pastiche as a floor-shaking classic bred from pop’s original DNA. If your life doesn’t feel immeasurably better after the first minute you might want to seek a defibrillator.
Perhaps you’ll find yourself at the the swampy ‘Get Some’, the unashamed Scando promising her man some serious action. It’s swamp rock with a surf twang and could be the soundtrack to getting drunk in a strip club in a strange town with Tarantino and David Lynch. If you think it rocks in headphones you should hear it played a little louder than recommended on your best stereo.
Every corner of the album drops the listener in a different space and time. There’s some straight-up country love songs, fresh pop, the best song Phil Spector never wrote/produced (‘Sadness Is A Blessing’), the undercurrent of many songs is this clever pilfering of the ‘50s and ’60s (sadly spoiled in one case, literally, by “shoo-wop, shoo-wop” backing vocals, reducing that moment to pastiche).
Something not fully utilised on the first album is the range of her voice, now very evident. It really can be huge in parts and she makes no bones about pushing it to the front of the production.
Much of this album may be stealing, but it’s plundering from the best sources. We already know that she has enough in-built talent to do something wonderful. The album is a selection box, with peaks and troughs, and contains enough instant gratification, possible longevity and dancing-in-your-chair moments to brighten the darkest corners of Election Day and, dare I say it, 2011 itself.