Swedish mistress of melancholy Lykke Li has been hanging out in Los Angeles, and it shows.
On her two previous albums, Youth Novels and Wounded Rhymes, Li perfected a strain of forensically intense Scandi-pop that majored in brooding atmospherics, glacial synths and wilfully tangential lyrics. They were a little short on chuckles, but diverting enough in a sub-Robyn sort of way.
This third offering is a break-up album as Li licks her wounds after emerging from a “horrible time” at the end of a relationship. She has chosen to soundtrack it via a series of epic, melodramatic, shoulder-heaving musical exorcisms. As she freely admits, “Every song is a power ballad.”
It’s that uniquely LA form of overwrought musical offering, and listening to nine of them consecutively can feel a bit like wading through concrete. Li’s treated vocal is poignant enough and the songs certainly have heft and ballast, but where is the light and shade? Could she not mix things up a bit?
When she gets it right, the impact is colossal. No Rest For The Wicked is as poignant and portentous as Lana Del Rey, a throb of existential pain that is as tortured as it is towering. The bleak yet lovely Never Gonna Love Again sounds like cult 1980s art-house band the Cocteau Twins covering the Bangles.
Mostly, though, so much dour intensity is wearing and Li needs to lighten up a tad, so maybe she will appreciate a joke doing the rounds about her: “Lykke Li used to have two male backing singers!”
“Really? Whatever happened to the Lykke Li lads?”