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Album Review: “Lady Wood” by Tove Lo

Grade: A+

Singer and songwriter Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson, who is more commonly known by her stage name Tove Lo, has seen her songs dominating the charts these past few years. In 2014, she put out her super-successful single “Habits (Stay High)” and in 2015, “Talking Bodies” took over the airwaves. This year, another one of her hit singles “Cool Girl” fought its way up the charts, while another recent radio release has been her collaborative single “Influence” with Wiz Khalifa. Lucky for us, those last two have been included in her 2016 album “Lady Wood.”

Tove Lo was originally offered a recording deal in 2014, thanks in part to her enormous online following. She signed on with Island and Polydor records. Her debut album, “Truth Serum,” was released in 2013. The Swedish native is relatively new to the international music stage, but she’s not holding back.

This album is different from most; not only for its unique sound, but for the introductory sound clips preceding several tracks. I call them this because each half of this album is introduced with a clip, less than a minute long, used to set the mood and pace for the upcoming song set. The first is titled “Fairy Dust – Chapter 1.” This intro has 80s influences, with notes of a techno beat that remind the listener of the sounds made in an old school Nintendo game. “Fire Fade – Chapter 1” comes across very ominously, with Tove Lo asking things like “Where have you gone?” in slurred speech, followed by dramatic background.

“Influence” with Wiz Khalifa lures you in with a dark and smoky club vibe. Here, Tove Lo so artfully depicts what we imagine a night of partying hard goes like and feels like; head spinning, pounding beats getting louder, people and judgment being blurred. She does this with a very cyclical background track. Its repetitive sound, made up of a tambourine and muted drum, are the base. Slowly, more sounds are added to mimic the hazy brain effect.

“Lady Wood,” which the album is named for, is odd to listen to. This single has a faster pace than “Influence” but incorporates more of a remix style with sudden vocal drops, replacing them with techno dubstep-like beats. The chorus also incorporates an excellent echoing effect. The use of the words ‘lady’ and ‘wood’ though is are strange to hear together, especially within the context of this song.

We revisit the Nintendo sounds in “Keep it Simple” as well as the continuous theme of complicated relationships that is carried out throughout this album. I am not sure how the Nintendo-like sounds add to the song, although the transition from that to a synthesizer structure does work very well. This song seems to revolve around an extended chorus, repeated more often than usual. This is one of the album’s songs that I liked the least.

There isn’t really any song on this album that I can say I utterly disliked. Simply said, Tove Lo is a pop artist dragging us all to the dark side with her powerful voice, blunt lyricism and unique sound.

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