It's been four long years since Lykke Li's beautiful, aching record I Never Learn, and the Swedish songwriter has made yet another powerful, provocative statement with So Sad So Sexy, her brand new fourth album. True to its name, the project is a collection of sleek, occasionally somber late-night tunes in which Li showcases a proclivity for the darker tones of modern alternative R&B.
Where I Never Learn was a more analog product, relying heavily on sweeping guitar and Li's vulnerable vocals to evoke a sense of loss and waywardness, So Sad So Sexy is decidedly more polished. Production comes from Rostam, DJ Dahi, T-Minus, and Kanye West collaborator Jeff Bhasker, among others. "Two Nights" also features an appearance from Aminé and shadowy piano that fully blossoms during the rapper's verse.
Even with the studio sheen on the beats, Li's vocals are the star. They're doubled and digitized on "Hard Rain," bouncing off the trap-tinged percussion, and given plenty of room to shine on the closer, "Utopia," a yearning guitar-powered ballad that feels like a spiritual sequel to tracks like "I Never Learn" and "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone." In an interview with The Fader, Li talked about how this album was a conscious sonic pivot from I Never Learn.
"I do one thing and then for the next thing it's kind of different," she said. "So, for this one I've been inspired living in America, by people around me, and understanding the power of a song. I've always written what I feel and in my 20s I was in my depressed state of mind. I also had a hard time with my vocals. I feel like going through what I've gone through — I had baby, my mom passed, a bunch of other shit — [has felt] like a metamorphosis."