Lykke Li's indie pop grabs the emotions so quickly that it's easy to overlook her skills as a vocalist and sonic curator. Her sophomore release hints at why her smorgasbord works so well, blending old-school garage rock with surf-guitar currents and rhythms that cut straight to the primal urge to dance.
Album opener "Youth Knows No Pain" unfurls 1960s-inspired garage-organ riffs, which reappear with a dark twist and some fantastically ominous guitars on "Rich Kids Blues." The spun-sugar musings of "Sadness Is a Blessing" provide a dreamy counterpoint moments later, with emotive vocals, spacey synth noises and smile-luring lyrics like "Sadness is my boyfriend / Oh, sadness, I'm your girl." "Unrequited Love" delves deeper into the melancholy, tying old-fashioned country ballads to doo-wop tears, the slight rasp of Li's voice slicing elegant wounds into the ether.
Meanwhile, "I Follow Rivers" shows why Li was tapped for the New Moon soundtrack and proves that dark and rhythmic, Cure-inspired pop is making a comeback in 2011.