I used to listen to the radio and watch MTV a lot in high school, like a good little teen. Right around college, I lost interest in the radio and mostly listened to Japanese music. After college, I still wasn’t listening to the radio, so it’s a wonder how I got into new music. Then I discovered Last.fm when I was bored at work and wanted to find a way to listen to new music that wasn’t the radio. Things really took off from there.
Lykke Li (another Swede – do I really listen to that many?) was one of my Last.fm discoveries. I was really into her sound, and though I was so overwhelmed by the amount of music discoveries, I went with her first album, Youth Novels. I enjoyed it, but only a few tracks stood out. I kept meaning to give her second album a try, but I didn’t get around to it until a few years later – last week, specifically.
What took me so long?! Wounded Rhymes is a fantastic album! Where Youth Novels is quiet and quirky, Wounded Rhymes is big and primal. It’s like putting a sugar glider next to a gorilla. I think back on the songs I liked on Last.fm and I realize that most of them came from this second album. So why didn’t I get that one first? Well, I have this weird compulsion where I like to buy albums in the chronological order of their release. I rarely break it. I like to think I’m discovering the evolution of the artist or something. I don’t know.
Anyway, let’s start with the song you’re most likely to have heard, if you have heard a Lykke Li song and perhaps didn’t realize it (probably on a TV show):
This song is not about sex. Really, even Li herself said so. I find that songs that are about sex tend to be more poetic about it, whereas songs that are not about sex tend to use it as a metaphor. And so Li lays it on extra thick in the lyrics and the video. I actually find the song rather empowering. Which is kind of what the song is about. It’s about having power over men by virtue of being a woman. Ever notice how a guy will call a woman a slut if she’s sleeping with anyone BUT him? To me this song is what it feels like to reclaim that word.
The album follows a mostly dark and primal theme. Just listen to “I Follow Rivers.” It’s got a very jungle-y ambiance. You can hear the plaintive desperation and obsession in her voice. Same with “Jerome.” She occasionally takes a break from the sound (but not the theme) on tracks like the almost minimal, Youth Novels-sounding “Unrequited Love” and on “Sadness Is a Blessing,” which reminds me of the debut album in another way. Specifically, it reminds me of “Let It Fall,” which is a happy-sounding song about being sad. In any case, both of the songs serve as Lykke Li’s interpretation of the quintessential American 1960’s girl group.
“I Know Places” is a nice, quiet track. It’s got this sort of musical epilogue attached to it, where you almost think it’s another song. To me, it sounds like the “place” where Lykke Li wants to take whomever she’s singing to. It’s a bit of an aural landscape, and I do love those. I also really like the heavy, almost industrial-sounding “Silent My Song.” It’s haunting, and the howling chorus is (yet again) plaintive and heavy, but in an appealing way.
I guess overall, Wounded Rhymes is kind of emo. In a weird, Swedish way. I don’t know if that will make sense to anyone who doesn’t listen to Swedish artists.