I apologize. I missed a couple days because I had a bit of trouble writing this review and/or I just felt incredibly lazy. Anyway, I may or may not post one or two more reviews today to catch up. Either that or this'll just take a bit longer than I expected.
Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
Wounded Rhymes is, oddly, one of the most playful albums I've heard this year but also one of the most melancholy. The insanely catchy melodies and Lykke Li's uniquely cheeky delivery make it an incredibly fun and addictive listen. At the same time, that voice, an intriguing combination of girlish and husky, can just as easily transform into something achingly mournful. That, along with the album's slower, subtler moments and its boom-y, spacious production, lend Wounded Rhymes a far more mature, reflective, even bleak quality than Li's lightweight debut, Youth Novels. As both a songwriter and a performer, Li's growth over the past few years is obvious and remarkable. What is most stunning about Wounded Rhymes is the confidence it exudes and the fact that it carries such a distinct sound - yet Li's newfound confidence never grows overbearing. Though the album's most immediately infectious tracks - "Youth Knows No Pain," "Get Some," "Rich Kids Blues" - find Li tossing out quick-witted, sarcasm-laced lyrics in an aggressively flirtatious way (most memorably, the oft-repeated guarantee, "I'm your prostitute/You gon' get some"), she is also capable of dialing down the cockiness to genuinely tug at the listener's heartstrings. "Love Out of Lust" is a gorgeously languorous track, a sort of slow-motion dance song, rich, expansive and cinematic. The album's emotional peak, "I Know Places," is an incredibly stripped-down ballad which allows Li to give her most plaintive, truly goosebump-raising vocal performance, sucking the listener completely into the song's sorrowful realm. The moments that shine brightest, though, fall between these extremes. There's "I Follow Rivers," which is just as catchy as any of the previously-mentioned tracks but also just eccentric enough and just dark enough to leave a real, long-lasting impact. It's actually oddly unsettling, with its slightly off-kilter percussion, quirky and child-like in an almost creepy way, and lyrics that are maddeningly cryptic, but not enough to keep you from listening over and over again. "Sadness Is a Blessing" is far less eerie but just as captivating. It most successfully embodies the layered, echo-laden '70s pop style that informs the entire album and it features what is probably Li's most technically impressive vocal. Also, for being so deceptively cutesy, the chorus is one of the album's bleakest: "Sadness is a blessing/Sadness is a pearl/Sadness is my boyfriend/Oh, sadness, I'm your girl." Wounded Rhymes, as a whole, is memorable not only for showcasing such a drastic change in sound and leap in artistry but also, simply, for being one of the finest albums of the year from beginning to end. Li may not be the best composer or lyricist or vocalist on this list but the fearlessness she displays on Wounded Rhymes has been one of my biggest - and best - surprises this year. I didn't go into this album expecting to adore it, which makes it all the more satisfying that it managed to win me over so thoroughly.