It’s been a long four years and a world of creative space between albums for Swedish singer songwriter Lykke Li. The heartbreak-filled indie drama of 2014’s I Never Learn has been countered with downbeat, stripped back, R&B tinged moody pop on her latest offering So Sad So Sexy.
Outside of the creative process, that four-year gap also included a move to L.A., the birth of her first child and the heartbreaking loss of a parent. With that kind of background you just can’t help but draw a bow between the magnitude and weight of those changes and the reinvention of the musician herself.
Bursting with new sounds, new rhythms, new singing styles and a host of new producers—including Ali Payami (Katy Perry, Taylor Swift), Rostam (Vampire Weekend) and Skrillex to name a few, change is everywhere on this record. It may not feel feel as cohesive as I Never Learn, but the array of new sounds are still satisfying to explore and unpack.
Gone are the lush organic sounds and indie power ballad choruses that featured heavily on I Never Learn. This is 2018 and Lykke Li has been rolling in grit pop. While the former featured piano, strings and lush chorus moments, the latter rolls deep in drum machines and R&B influences—leaving those organic sounds for dust in a flash of The Weeknd-inspired melancholy pop.
Drum machines and R&B tempos aside, Lykke Li herself sounds different too, experimenting with different singing styles and vocal tones. With the reverb stripped out the vocals are left exposed, which makes them sound a little colder, adding to an air of sad emptiness and complimenting the use of space that runs through the record.
The glimpses of vocal vulnerability peppered throughout the previous record are nowhere to be seen. This time around she’s less melodic, more frantic in parts and close to just talking in others.
The R&B influence creeps into the vocals on jaguars in the air and sex money feelings die, while Two Nights has a great Robyn-esque vocal hook (“You been dancing with somebody?”), and features rapper Amine in a resounding proclamation to the listener that this record is, indeed, not like the others.
For anyone who just loves a good dose of heartbreak, you won’t be left high and dry. While this record doesn’t touch the sides in terms of the rip-your-heart-out sorrow that permeated I Never Learn, there’s still enough material in the form of infidelity, break-up sex and feeling lonely inside a relationship to satiate you if you’re that way inclined.
Rounding out the album with the most optimistic track on the record, utopia feels like an acknowledgement of sorts that while change can be hard, even excruciating at times, you’ll eventually realise you’re all the better for it when you come out the other side.