LYKKE LI plays the Phoenix May 22. See listing. Rating: NN
On her sophomore album, Swedish pop singer Lykke Li can't seem to shake the feelings of restlessness and heartache that marked her debut, Youth Novels. But this time around she's less ambivalent about what it all means.
While the minimal production and closely miked vocals on her debut emphasized the pop hooks and her fragile voice, Li and producer Bjorn Yttling (Peter, Bjorn & John) give listeners a more all-encompassing, if familiar, sound on Wounded Rhymes, nestling her vocals amidst girl-group harmonies, psych organ and shambolic percussion.
There's conviction in the music - and some catchy choruses - but Li's vocals aren't always as convincing or varied as the emotional range she tackles: provocatively intimidating (Get Some), self-deprecating (Rich Kid Blues), resigned (Jerome). At worst, she's woefully earnest, as on the flimsy gospel ballad Unrequited Love, and her 60s retro sound isn't immune to clichés. (Cue the Be My Baby drum intro.)
Top track: I Follow Rivers