by Kaja Kryda
Tove Lo, yet another talented Swedish musical export, is back with her second – “darker and dreamier” – album: ‘Lady Wood’. (And yes, she means a female boner.)
A proven hit-writer (Lo co-wrote Ellie Goulding’s ‘Love Me Like You Do’) and prolific collaborator (she’s worked with Coldplay, Nick Jonas, Years & Years to name a few), she had her solo debut in 2014 and quickly joined the pantheon of internationally successful Swedish electropop stars. She became known for her dark lyrics, talking of sex, drugs and heartbreak.
‘Cool Girl’, released this August, was a promising single, sharpening many people’s appetite for ‘Lady Wood’. The song has a contemporary, subtly edgy vibe, and the accompanying video shows Tove as confident and nonchalant as a true ‘cool girl’ should be.
Lo’s understated yet self-assured style feels refreshing and sets her apart from many other pop stars; so do her unpretentious, matter-of-fact lyrics. On ‘Lady Wood’, she tackles love, getting high, and getting high on love (Tove doesn’t romanticise relationships all that much, but might be romanticising drugs just a little).
She sings about clichés and playing romantic games, to finally ask “WTF do you think love is?” on one of the album’s strongest tracks. She describes the blurriness of being under the ‘Influence’ (with a little help of Wiz Khalifa), and talks of the pleasures of keeping things casual. More generally, her voice is a conscious expression of a strong, sex-positive, female agency – just like the title suggests.
‘Lady Wood’ seems more mature and more honest than ‘Queen Of The Clouds’. The vocals are smoother, the narrative even more self-aware. But musically, it’s hardly more daring than its commercial-sounding predecessor. ‘Lady Wood’ is more of a concept album, with its two chapters and two corresponding short films – first of them, ‘Fairy Dust’, already available on YouTube. But not only that, there isn’t anything particular in the compositions that would set the chapters apart; the whole album doesn’t seem to have a singular, signature sound that would define it. This lack of musical originality is slightly disappointing, as Tove’s ironic lyrics and self-produced expressive music videos show a strong will for individual expression. It seems fair to expect a bit more of her.
Sound-wise, ‘Lady Wood’ is competent, yet lacking a certain ‘je-ne-sais-quoi’ that would make it more memorable. But its honest, unabashedly self-indulgent lyrics give it a bit more of an edge amongst this year’s many strong electropop releases.