I’m a sucker for chick rock. Hot girls who get behind a microphone and take control also have the profound ability to take control of my ears. I grew up in a household of No Doubt, Alanis Morrissette, Sheryl Crow, Dido, Paula Cole, Tracy Chapman and Astrid Gilberto doing The Girl from Ipanema at dinner parties. I currently have some contemporary babes on heavy rotation—PJ Harvey, Cults, and Lykke Li. But only Lykke Li’s record has ten songs on it. So let’s list the best songs to the worst.
1. Unrequited Love
What? A slow jam takes the cake? You might think: this entire record is full of hard-hitting Swedish wood-bangers– so why put one of the two quiet songs in the lead? But there it is. The song is an unavoidable landmark on the album. It slows you down and pulls you very deep under. The unidentifiable clapping that starts the piece calls back to Paul McCartney’s mysterious foot tapping (maybe it was tentacle slapping?) on Blackbird. Lykke gets to display her voice in full here—and her ability to harmonize with it. In the end, it’s wonderfully constructed piece of dark pop with a country-western vibe. Welcome to America, Lykke!
2. I Follow Rivers
Swedish music is a strange thing. It’s funded by the government and it usually manages to evoke the feeling of darkness Swedish people have to deal with daily. Of course ABBA was the darkest of them all—(The Knife is a close second). Lykke Li manages to strike a balance between the darkness of a Swedish winter and the summery beauty of the nation’s inhabitants. The electric sounds that start the song speak to the darkness, while the marry-go-round Cardigans-style jumpiness retains some of those blonde haired, blue-eyed genetics.
3. Youth Knows No Pain
The opening song on the album is a banger. The yawning harmonies in the chorus are extremely captivating and the listener instantly knows what’s going on. Yeah, this is definitely not Katy Perry singing about creaming her jeans and sucking lollipops. Clocking in at 3:00, the song is the shortest on the record, but it makes good use of the organ and Lykke’s too-cool-to-date-anyone voice. Usually “getting down” implies dancing or doing it—for Lykke it’s all part of a dark ritual (for me, that’s also what dancing is). So cool.
4. Silent My Song
It’s the last song on the album! Song number ten! It begins as a dystopian horn-blow fest and doesn’t go far beyond that. The darkness in the background is battled by an army of harmonizing Lykkes—like some remixed scene from Metropolis. The dramatic pauses in the choruses are downright chilling—and the momentum is never lost. A song like this puts Lykke in an experimental field, a place where so many Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys would love to be with their ‘high-art’ stage costumes. Lykke doesn’t need a costume—the umph is in her craft. A haunting end to a ten-song album.
5. Love out of Lust
A little too fleshed out to be a slow jam in the vein of “Unrequited Love”, but the tenderness is there. The delicate whistling in the background of the chorus almost sounds like high-pitched Mariah Carey screaming. Instead of booty, it gives the song a woodsy depth. The end is pure sex—Lykke crooning “love out of lust” is a powerful and debilitating aphrodisiac.
6. Sadness Is a Blessing
A true ballad here. It would be higher up if I didn’t hate the chorus so much. It’s only because I have no idea what having “sadness as a boyfriend” is like. Does anyone? Is sadness anyone’s boyfriend? Who’s dating Paul Giamatti?
7. I Know Places
I Know Places is an ambitious make-out song and the longest song on the record. Be warned: it’s one guitar and one voice. The last couple of minutes turn into a very dreamy instrumental section. One could use the break and subsequent instrumental section to heighten a make out sesh. Or maybe you will take your partner one base further. Either way you better hurry up, because once you get to the next track, Jerome, nothing’s happening.
8. Get Some
While Get Some is one of the more recognizable songs on the record, it’s also one of the easiest. The beat is entrancing, and the vibrato guitars are aptly vintage, but the construction falls flat. It’s a decent pick up from the emotional devastation of Unrequited Love, but it gets repetitive and annoying very fast.
It’s disappointing to have a hook-less song in the heat of a hook-heavy album. Jerome kind of sounds like all the rest, save some great keyboard work. But thank god there’s this up-tempo thing sandwiched between the two heaviest songs! Without it I might be too scared to buy the next album!
10. Rich Kid Blues
It’s also sad to hear such a transcendental pop artist come crashing back down to earth under the weight of bad lyrics. Rich Kid Blues is as snotty as the title suggests. It’s about trouble in bed, smoke acting as babies, etc. Most of all it’s about having the Rich Kid Blues, something I imagine Ke$ha and Paris Hilton go to a support group for. Lykke’s cool drawl is transformed into a drunken party slur here—and it veers the album off course. Maybe it’s just my attitude towards women in general—when they aren’t in the recording studio or on stage making amazing music they should be thinking about making more music and ways of making their music better. Don’t party. Don’t be a spoiled brat.
There you have it. Not a GIANT landmark album, but a nice Swedish pallet cleanser before The Knife comes back to stab us all in the hearts. That being said, a Swedish pallet cleanser is often a mouthful of pickled herring. Lykke Li’s album is like pickled herring: it’s potent, jarred or canned, preferably eaten on a walking tour of an island in the Finnish archipelagos in the two hours of daylight. I think it’ll stay around a while in my mouth. Maybe I’ll floss a bone out between some teeth next week. And all my friends will know that I had it. Because it will be on my breath. This metaphor is falling apart. Unrequited Love is good.