It’s been four years since Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson released her last album, ‘I Never Learn’. Since then, the Scandinavian singer has relocated to Los Angeles and had a child with American pop writer and producer extraordinaire Jeff Bhasker. The result? A record that still has the dark, subtle and subdued pain of ‘I Never Learn’, except now it’s fit for the dancefloor.
Fear not though, this is still a quintessential Lykke Li record, just with more writers and producers on board. At just 34 minutes, the album follows in the footsteps of Kanye West and Pusha T who have both recently dropped bodies of work with a very streamlined runtime — thankfully this is more ‘DAYTONA’ than ‘Ye’.
Somewhat poetically, Li Lykke has always had an affinity with hip-hop, what with Drake sampling ‘Little Bit’ back in 2009 and Lykke Li covering ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ herself on various tours. Being a rap fan seems to have influenced the recording sessions for this album as album opener ‘hard rain’ and recent single ‘deep end’ both contain the skittish drums, buzzsaw synths and rumbling sub-bass that wouldn’t be out of place on a Travis Scott or Future record.
What’s perhaps most surprising is that it’s taken so long for Li to make this record. She has always had a natural talent for writing despairing pop songs and the last 12 months have shown that pop music is in a fairly dark and lonely place. Just look at the likes of The Weeknd, Lorde’s ‘Melodrama’, Mercury winner Sampha and even Drake himself who literally just released a song called ‘I’m Upset’.
Lykke Li has surely always had an album like this in her locker, and the current pop landscape feels like the perfect opportunity to unleash it. ‘last piece’ could even be mistaken for a Lorde cut as Li explores the deep end of her vocal range while floating the chorus of “Let me keep the last piece of my heart before you tear it all apart,” over menacing and brooding rumbles.
With helping hands from Jeff Bhasker (‘deep end’), Skrillex (‘two nights’) and frequent The Weekend collaborator Illangelo (‘better alone’) this has all the ingredients to be one of the most interesting and rewarding records of the summer, and it deserves to be.
While this might not be the most pivotal ‘sad pop’ record from someone who arguably coined the genre, it can stand toe-to-toe with the best of them and few albums have ever been as appropriately named as ‘so sad so sexy’. As Drake himself said on 2013’s Wu-Tang Forever: “It ain’t about who did it first it’s about who did it right,” and Lykke Li has done it right.
Words: Matthew Cooper
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