Lykke Li’s 4th studio album, so sad so sexy is her first in four years. During this break, she grappled with the artistic block she experienced as she had a child and mourned the loss of her mother. Youth Novel, Wounded Rhymes, and I Never Learn were a trilogy; exploring the trials and tribulations of her twenties, Li said writing the three albums set her free, but it is apparent from her latest album she is yet to step down from her throne as queen of summertime sadness.

Her first single from the album, ‘hard rain’, is the opening track. At the start, her distinct voice, backed by synths, croons out in a style reminiscent of her previous album, but is quickly layered with others, taking on a more robotic quality. The production is also distinctly clean, and the influences from American hip-hop are clear. The next track, ‘deep end’ has a dubstep edge. ‘two nights’ starts like a piano backed ballad that could belong on either of Li’s other albums, but a feature from Portland rapper Amine sets it apart. His flow is sharp and punchy, contrasting beautifully with Li’s melodic warbling. The next few tracks are self-indulgent in a way only Lykke Li can pull off. “Let me keep the last piece of my heart, before you tear it all apart” she laments on ‘last piece’, before concluding “I know we’re gonna make it someday” on ‘jaguars in the air’. Both tracks have repetitive lyrics, making them irritating at first, but impossibly catchy by the fourth or fifth listen.

On the second half of the album, Li continues to be unapologetically vulnerable and emotional with lyrics so sad and desperate they’re almost ironic. Even some names of songs: ‘sex money feelings die’, ‘so sad so sexy’, ‘bad woman’, and ‘better alone’ are somewhat eyeroll-inducing, but Li deals with them so genuinely, with a self-deprecating edge, that you can’t help but get on board. Cynicism is difficult to sustain with emotion delivered so authentically. The album closes on the powerful ‘utopia’. It was originally shared by Li on social media as a tribute on Mother’s Day with the note: “MOTHER TO MOTHER TO MOTHER. Utopia is all my mother ever wanted for me and all I ever want for him”. The tribute is poignant, but delivers an optimistic ending.

so sad, so sexy

4 Stars

Artist: Lykke Li. Label: RCA. Top Tracks: hard rain; utopia. For Fans Of: Lana Del Rey; Robyn; First Aid Kit; PJ Harvey. 34 minutes