When Sweden’s Lykke Li first appeared, she seemed like an indie-pop dream—slight of stature, big on heart. Adorable, energetic, and just artsy enough, she was effortlessly able to weave radio buoyancy through a comely web of electro, folk, and rock. Bloggers and critic types were sure they’d discovered their chart-conquering heroine, and then… she disappeared. Wounded Rhymes is the overdue follow-up to Li’s 2008 debut, Youth Novels, (recorded while she was 19; she’s now 24) and it might as well belong to someone else entirely. That Lykke Li was looking for love. This one found it, then sent it back after discovering it was a bad fit. “Sadness is my boyfriend,” she sings on “Sadness Is A Blessing,” a song that owes its big drums, dramatic piano hits, and copious reverb to The Shangri-Las, or perhaps Björn Yttling’s take on the Phil Spector sound. It seems impossible that the girl who sung “Little Bit” would become the woman of “Unrequited Love,” a spare country ballad which concludes that her heartache “must mean I live again / And get back what I gave my men / Get back what I lost to them.” The fact that this is followed by the darkly bouncy single “Get Some,” in which she casts herself as a prostitute employing “pussy power” (her words, via Pitchfork), only widens the gulf between then and now. At its core, this is an album about innocence lost—the opener, “Youth Knows No Pain,” is hardly celebratory; it’s a message to her old self, essentially saying, “You have no idea”—set to a cavernous, damaged pop score. At her core, this new snarling, burned Lykke Li is unfamiliar, perhaps even to herself, but it’s to our benefit. We get to meet her all over again.
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