Monday, November 7, 2016

Lady Wood | Tove Lo

While Tove Lo is two years removed from her debut album, it feels as if she has never left. Since then, she has been pop music's favorite featured vocalist (with Alesso Nick Jonas, Flume, and Coldplay, among others) and songwriter (for Ellie Goulding and Hilary Duff). After so many brief guest appearances, an update from within – from her own perspective, without additional company –was long overdue. So as we close out this year, enter Lady Wood, the first in a proposed series of interdependent concept albums.

Lo's first outing, Queen of the Clouds, is associated with booming, dark pop – qualities that carry over only to "Flashes" on Lady Wood. Elsewhere, this album takes a minimalist approach, inspired by icy club beats and fueled on infectious, repetitious melody lines. She finds power in grooving synthesized bass lines ("Cool Girl," "WTF Love Is") and deep automated drums ("Influence"), while continuing her lyrical trend of reducing dissonance between her lovesick emotions and her blurred lines, no-strings-attached, party-hard mentality.

The focus has become not the killer hooks or guided story line of her debut, but rather the cultivation of a distinct attitude through careful soundscaping that demonstrates artistic evolution without losing touch with Lo's taste for Top 40 sensibility. Lady Wood carries a less distinct plot than its predecessor, instead emphasizing its moodiness and leaving room for a fluid interpretation as to how the two sections of the album are to coexist as representations of a relationship's rise and fall.

At ten tracks plus two instrumental interludes long, this record is a relatively small playground, but it's one that allows for experimentation without giving leeway for Lo to abandon the qualities that differentiate her from the crowd. In fact, she's a more believable (and admirable) brand of edgy than ever before, sparing the overwhelming drug-referencing drama for sleek, too-cool-for-school apathy – even if that cool factor is sometimes compromised by the expected use of trend terms like "feels," "WTF," even "lady wood" itself.

Lady Wood is available now under Island Records.

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