“Can’t take all these memories,” Robyn sings one hundred seconds into her sixth album, “don’t know how to use ‘em.” It transpires that the swirling synth arpeggios of ‘Missing U’ are something of a musical outlier, but the sentiment is one that permeates every strand of Robyn’s artistic DNA: the ability to use those bittersweet memories more effectively than any other musician working today.
What made Calum Scott’s chart-bothering cover of ‘Dancing On My Own’ so deplorable wasn’t merely its grey pallor, but that it missed the point of the song altogether. Robyn songs aren’t simply sad, but vividly, electrifyingly sad, as euphoric in their longing as they are in the moments of pleasure. ‘Because It’s in the Music’ details a particular scene from the past caught in song, as fresh as it was all those years ago (“I’m right back in that moment, and it makes me want to cry”). ‘Honey’ itself is besotted: “Every breath that whispers your name, it’s like emeralds on the pavement.” For Robyn, the storage of the past is perpetually bleeding into a lost present.
There are no four-to-the-floor bangers here, though ‘Between the Lines’ and ‘Beach 2k20’ straddle some unexpected patches of minimalist techno and tropical house, both of which distract without entirely derailing the record. Elsewhere Joseph Mount’s contributions tell even more than long-time collaborator Klas Åhlund; the bassline on ‘Ever Again’ sounds like it could have been directly lifted from a Metronomy track, though it doesn’t jar with the song’s soft-focus reflection on heartbreak.
And what does one do with heartbreak? How should it be used? ‘That shit’s out the door’ is the wonderful lyrical turn as the album draws to a close, though it seems to be a verdict not on art, but a mantra for the life beyond it. Melancholy remains the primary colour in Robyn’s work, though it continues to sparkle.
Words: Matthew Neale
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