AlmostAGhost’s Best Albums Of 2011 – #12. Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

delirious gestures are so easily misread

I’ve written about Lykke Li a couple of times on here, and both times I hinted at the general over-produced nature of her albums. And while I still believe that to be true, every time I step back a bit and just listen and take a wide look at Wounded Rhymes, I really dig it. I love her songs and every time I listened, I liked it more, so the album just climbed up my rankings here.

Lykke Li herself calls the songs “hypnotic, psychotic and more primal” (according to Wikipedia), which is probably the best description of Wounded Rhymes ever. The music throughout the album is catchy pop songs, at its core. I dare you not to be left humming along to “I Follow Rivers,” “Rich Kids Blues,” “Jerome,” any of them really. But this pop nature is rarely pure. Everything has a slightly eccentric twist. The driving rhythms are tempered by quiet melodies, flashes of country and rock and dance and ambient flesh the pop songs out. Lykke Li, perhaps unexpectedly, can blend genres as easily as anyone.

As for the “psychotic and primal” part of these songs, much of that is in the lyrics. Each song is extremely direct. The songs are always very much in the now. “Once again it’s happening…” she starts on “Unrequited Love.” “I know places we can go, babe.” Later, she flat-up declares, “I’m your prostitute / you’re gonna get some.” Most of the songs are in the present tense, and come off quite urgent.

Along with this urgency, most of the songs are also entirely one-direction. That is, there is little indication that love is being returned (“Unrequited Love”), the rivers want to be followed (“I Follow Rivers”), Jerome won’t leave (“Jerome”), that she can actually get love out of lust (“Love Out Of Lust”). That’s what makes these songs so cool and unique, but perhaps also what is slightly off-putting about them as well. “I ranted / I pleaded / I begged you not to go,” and does that ever work? The pain and wounds she sings of — they’re real, but also in a way… not so much. “My wounded rhymes make silent cries tonight,” she melodramatically sings, “sadness is my boyfriend, oh sadness, I’m your girl.”

I also should note that I’m probably just barely scratching the surface here. A lot of the stuff she writes about has deeper levels, about selling out as a musician (“I’m your prostitute / you’re gonna get some”) and all this heartbreak may not necessarily even be relationship-based. As she explained the metaphor in this interview, “A lot of times, you’re breaking your own heart. For me, it was realizing that what I thought was love really isn’t love. It’s about that, the ghost of love.”

Those depths in the music and the feelings are what kept pulling me back into Wounded Rhymes, one of my favorite albums of the year.

Lykke Li “Sadness Is A Blessing”

Lykke Li “Youth Knows No Pain”