Artist: Lykke Li
I’ve always had a soft spot for power ballads, those sweeping emotive tracks that make you want to belt out lyrics along with the singer. In my youth, the only real power ballads I knew were, in fact, pretty awful- manipulative drivel about faux female empowerment which usually focused on the theme of “please take me back!”
Fortunately for me, my later discovery of indie rock didn’t mean the end of enjoying power ballads. Instead of “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” I was able to latch on to a new generation of emotional pop ballad. Adding this this wonderful legacy is the recent release from Swedish artist, Lykke Li, Wounded Rymes.
This album isn’t all about feelings and heartbreak though. Wounded Rhymes opens with the totally catchy and entirely dance-able “Youth Knows No Pain,” a track that exudes the freedom of young-adulthood, summer nights and the feeling of immortality that we all access at our best moments. In the same vein, tracks like “Get Some” and “Rich Kid Blues” are all about the power of sex and youth. These hooky tunes manage to be powerful but somehow sweet at the same time, a unique gift that Lykke Li exploits to her great advantage.
As for ballads, the slower, more melodic songs on Wounded Rhymes may the be album’s strongest tracks. “Unrequited Love” is so stripped down, it could almost be mistaken for an American Country song, but don’t let that mislead you into thinking these songs fall into cliché or sentimentality. Rather that play up her vocals for emotional effect, Lykke Li allows the music to do most of the talking, with vocals that are spare and rarified.
From start to finish, this album is lush and layered without being too complicated by audio effects. The vocals are clear and powerful and the musical arrangements allow for maximum energy without being overpowering. Wounded Rhymes is simply splendid, sweeping and memorable. Turn up the volume, sing along and enjoy the feeling that only an album like this can provide.