June 6, 2018 Lykke Li – so sad so sexy (Album Review)
It has been four years since we heard from Sweden’s Lykke Li, but that dry-spell is about to end on Friday, June 8, 2018, with so sad so sexy on RCA Records.
While you might want to pronounce her name as “Likely,” this is not correct. Stop being so American! Swedish siren Lykke Li (say it like “Licky Lee”) has been destined for greatness since her debut album, Youth Novels, appeared in 2008. Two-thousand and eleven’s Wounded Rhymes and 2014’s I Never Learn followed, cementing the Singer-Songwriter and Multi-Instrumentalist as an impressive young talent.
In fact, her list of accomplishments is endless, from working with the likes of Kanye West, Röyksopp, and A$AP Rocky to being featured as a “Best Of” in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, and more. Li has performed at Glastonbury, Coachella, and Lollapalooza, as well as had her music featured in an endless list of video games, TV series, and films – with the Twilight Saga, The Fault In Our Stars, and CW’s The Vampire Diaries being just three places you can hear her music. She is also the headmistress of the band liv, which also features Andrew Wyatt, Björn Yttling, Pontus Winnberg, and Jeff Bhasker.
Of course, there is so much more to Li than her musical pursuits: she is a partner in the liquor venture YOLA Mezcal and an accomplished actress who starred alongside Ryan Gosling in Terrance Malik’s 2017 film, Song to Song. Now, with her fourth studio offering, so sad so sexy, the Los Angeles-based, super-busy Li returns to her first love to make her RCA Records debut. Working with a coterie of producers – from bandmate and friend Jeff Bhasker (Jay-Z, Mark Ronson) to Rostam (formerly of Vampire Weekend) to DJ/Producer Skrillex – Li has crafted a ten-song collection that aims for Ambient Indie Pop or Trip Pop, if you will.
The album begins with that beautifully crisp, clear, angelic voice ringing bright on the opening notes of “hard rain,” anchored by a heart’s beat, this is one song that will delight those that revel in petrichor. The full-on embrace of Hip/Trip Hop beats and soulful Pop sensibilities make “deep end” a rather generic sound but catchy yes, that uses a swimming pool as a metaphor for the travails of love; dive on in and you’ll quickly find yourself sunk.
The heavy atmospherics of “two nights” – featuring Aminé – paint a lackadaisical sway that sees Li awaiting the return of an errant lover while smoking away her cares. Much like the entirety of the collection, electronics hold down the fort of the beautifully moody “last piece,” a plea to hold onto that final string of oneself before being torn to shreds by a departing lover.
Next, there is a glittering quality to “jaguars in the air,” a summertime sashay, while “sex money feelings die” aims for an ooze of sensual soul that is buried inside studio effects and those pesky Trip Hop beats. Album namesake, “so sad so sexy” is a ballad that leans toward sonic sensuality with its open-armed embrace of a relationship on the edge of finality.
Yet another relationship track, the emotional confessions of “better alone” (“What are we going to do when making love don’t make it right?”) find Li preferring to be single rather than lonely. Although, perhaps all of these relationships foibles are due to her being a self-confessed “bad woman,” a gentle promise of a sad story. Ultimately, the collection closes out with the intended anthem, “utopia,” where one mother reflects on the beautifully peaceful future that she envisions for her son, while reminiscing about the dreams her own mother once held for her.
With tracks like “Little Bit,” “Get Some,” and “Gunshot,” Li established herself as a Swedish Pop sensation with quirk and sass but a studious depth to her material that made her music intelligent though still dangerously catchy. Unfortunately, so sad so sexy seems to have departed from whatever it was that made Li a truly unique siren, dusting Trip Hop across the musical soundscape and weaving a collection mired in electronic beats that culminate in a furiously generic Pop sound. While you certainly cannot demean her beautifully age-less voice, so sad so sexy feels unceremoniously bland for this particular artistic soul. Although, please do not misunderstand: so sad so sexy is not a bad collection at all, it just may leave something to be desired. At least, a little bit. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Lykke Li’s so sad so sexy 3.5 of 5 stars.
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