Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes

April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lykke Li is many things—songstress, singer, dancer—but what is so captivating about her is the paradoxical nature of those traits she posesses.  She is both fierce and delicate, fragile and dark.  It is this juxtaposition of affect in her music that is so beautiful.  There is a danger, though, in settling for the undisruptive middle ground between the opposing sides of the spectrum, neither abandoning both sides nor fully embracing them.  Such was the case in Li’s debut album, Youth Novels.  It was safe and inexperienced; the structure was too straightforward and the layers too thin.  But there was something substantial at the heart of each song that drove the album forward and seemed to signal that something bigger was coming.  That something was Wounded Rhymes.

It has been a long three years since her first release, and it is clear that a lot has occurred during that time, including Li’s relocation from Brooklyn to Echo Park in Los Angeles.  She said in an interview with Pitchfork Media earlier this year that she has “been exposed to many things during these last few years; all the baby fat is gone. I dove into the craziness.”  And it shows.  Everything about Wounded Rhymes is more intense than could have been anticipated, as if she is screaming now what she had only whispered before.  The largeness of the album is due in large part to her powerful voice, which is now robust and certain, illuminating melodies with confidence and vitality over layers that are significantly thicker than before.  On the other hand, the album bares her vulnerability for the first time, as in the sparse ballad, “I Know Places.”  The track is reminiscent of Radiohead or early Dylan, its loneliness upheld by Li’s characteristic determination to survive in the darkness.

Perhaps the biggest change is seen in the form of each song, and the form of the album as a whole.  Whereas Youth Novels was held together by the similarity of its tracks—lullaby-like songs that flowed from one to another with very little distinction, each song on Wounded Rhymes is more a journey than a statement, a total exploration of the ideas that were only suggested in her previous work.  The result is graceful but strong, and finally presents us with a wide-open door into her world.

Watch the short film Solarium starring Lykke Li:

By Kelsey Upward, Staff Music Writer.

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