This is how strong I found 2012: for much of the year this was my #1 album. It drifted down a bit the latter half; but listening now I almost feel I should bump it way back up. Regardless, the numbering doesn’t really matter. The Lion’s Roar is a showcase for First Aid Kit, two sisters from Sweden. It shows off their sparkling crystal voices, deep and slightly philosophical lyrics, gorgeous melodies. Their maturity is almost off-putting, as these two Swedish girls seem to have somehow mastered folk and Americana song styles, lyrical songwriting, and being super cool.almostaghost
Tag Archive for 'Sweden'
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.almostaghost
Like last week, my week was again highlighted by a concert. This time I went to see Lykke Li (and Best Coast). I’ve seen Lykke before, in a small venue, but I found this bigger outdoor theatre performance to be much more memorable. I think it fit her unique stage presence. Part of that was having a 2nd album of songs–she just kept playing more and more songs that I liked and I kept thinking, “oh yea I forgot about this song!” It was great to hear the new stuff live; sometimes I just listen to the albums so much and sometimes I get a little nitpicky critical in thinking about them. But then to hear them live makes me step back–yes these are great songs.
(Best Coast was fine; all their songs sound the same.)- almostaghost
So I’ve been enjoying the new Lykke Li album, which led me of course to poke around YouTube one night watching some of her videos. Turns out, she has a number of videos, performing acoustic in the street! How cool! My one minor criticism of the new record is it feels slightly overproduced, and I really like hearing her songs stripped down like this. Obviously, these are all from her first album, instead of her new album since that just came out. But let’s look:
Here’s Lykke and her band singing “Little Bit” on the street in Stockholm. Pure busking! A guy in the window shouts to be quiet or he’ll call the police. A car drives by. The same guy is converted and throws them money at the end.
This one’s incredible. Lykke Li sings, dances, plays the trumpet, and rattles chains while Bon Iver (!) jam on the edge of a fountain. I am not sure why Lykke Li was hanging out with Bon Iver, but they should more. Also apparently Lykke Li plays the trumpet.
Another one outdoors here, it’s “Dance Dance Dance” again, but this time with El Perro Del Mar as her backup. (Kazoo this time, not a trumpet.)
This “I’m Good, I’m Gone” is not out in public, but it is acoustic and apparently outdoors, so close enough.
This one here might be my favorite, and it features Robyn on the chorus! But I can’t embed it, so you have to click over.
And since I don’t like to leave you without music, here’s Beck’s remix of her new single “Get Some”:almostaghost
Genre: Neo Folk,Folktronic, Medieval pop
Effortless space show
Tender voids fulfilled in sound
Sleep awake foreverBtrxz
#16. Robyn – Body Talk
There were a number of fascinating pop albums this year, like Nicki Minaj (bonkers) and Kanye West (huge) and Justin Bieber (kidding). But my favorite comes all the way from Sweden. Robyn released three EPs this year, Body Talk Pt. 1, Pt. 2 and Pt. 3. She also released Body Talk, which had five tracks from each part. All together, her Body Talks are an enjoyable and deep collection of songs.
Robyn’s music is built on the basics of pop music. There’s dancing, dancing alone, crying, boredom, heartbreak, dangerous love, robots. She hits on something primal, that when the body talks, listen. If you’re hurt, you’re hurt. Frustrations happen. Hearts break. Love kills. But through it all, she just keeps moving. “We Dance To The Beat” nails it all down: “we dance to the beat of continents shifting under our feet / We dance to the beat of false math and unrecognized genius / we dance to the beat of gravity giving us a break.” “Fembot” is the most poppy song here, and the main lines are “you split my heart in two / now whatcha gonna do?” Many of the songs have her reacting to this split heart, mostly by dancing. Other times by being sad. Other times by taking on the world.
A few songs show off Robyn’s sometimes dark and dry humor. “Criminal Intent” finds her pleading guilty to “lewd and indecent events” and is being incarcerated for getting “somewhat X-rated on the floor.” (“Would you pardon me for being inappropriately attired?”) This isn’t a surprise if you’re aware of Robyn’s raunchy and hilarious rodomontade from a few years ago, “Konichiwa Bitches.” Here, she and Snoop Dogg effectively write a sequel. On “U Should Know Better” the duo warn the French, the Vatican, Russians, the FBI, the CIA, the LAPD, and the Prince Of Darkness not to fuck with them.
Wikipedia has a quote from Robyn describing one of her songs as a “sweet and sour bon-bon wrapped in melancholy,” which sums her up better than I ever could. The melancholy wrapper around fun electro pop music and ideas makes Robyn’s Body Talk one of the tastiest albums of the year.
Here’s one song from each of the EPs:almostaghost
#25. Sophie Zelmani – I’m The Rain
In thinking about I’m The Rain, Sophie Zelmani’s eighth album, I am struck by how similar it is to basically everything else she’s done. Artists certainly often maintain their own style, but most also branch out a bit (especially by their 8th album). Zelmani, on the other hand, does much the same thing over and over. I have heard, and love, all of her records, but none stands out above any other. She has matured a bit, but I’m The Rain‘s personality does not differ from that of any of her other albums. Normally, I would find this problematic or frustrating, but it never bothers me at all with Zelmani. I want more albums from her, and I want them all to be like this one. (And that’s what she gives me!)
I’m The Rain continues Zelmani’s use of very elemental metaphors. I assume it is because she is Swedish, yet writing in English, but her songs tend to be about love, ships, rooms, weather, time—all the basics. She doesn’t get fancy. But again, this is not a criticism: the lyrics fit the light touch of the music very well, and are even more perfectly matched to her shy, whispered vocals. Less poetic, sure, but Zelmani’s lyrics come off as pure expressions. For instance, the opening lines of “If I Could” are: “if I could give anything, I would / if my thoughts could do you good / If I could help you with this part of life, you’d get a lift / You could load your weight on me.” Not the most beautiful lines ever written, but when you hear it, you know she feels it and is saying what she wants to say. What more could you want?
I’m The Rain frequently borders on sad, but in the end is quite hopeful. She is always on that borderline. She uses piano riffs a bit more on this record to enhance the mood, and the acoustic-guitar beds on which she lays her voice can be surprisingly complicated (check that Spanish guitar on “You Can Always Long For May” below). As Zelmani sings, “some prefer the sunlight and some like the rain,” and well, if she’s the rain, that’s what I prefer.almostaghost