We may be a little obsessed with this album right now.
We came across Tove Styrke a few weeks ago while browsing the Local paper. Checking, as we tend to do, local gig listings we see Tove Styrke is playing at Start The Bus (a once amazing music venue that has gone somewhat downhill after a failed attempt to go ‘gastro’). The listings include the words ‘Swedish’ and ‘ElectroPop’. We immediately buy tickets. Then we figure we should check out some of Tove’s music. Her just released sophomore album was out first port of call. But before that, some backstory…
Ms. Styrke was runner up on Swedish Pop Idol in 2010 and hastily afterward released her self-titled début, a perfectly enjoyable but slightly bland (although even when bland the Swedish do Pop better than another else) album that Tove herself has since admitted was rushed and that she wasn’t happy with the results (despite going platinum). Fast-forward to 2014, after taking some time out of the limelight Tove returns with the Borderline EP, a preview of the follow-up album to come. It’s was a brash, left-field take on Pop loaded with personality. This wasn’t the work of a post-TV show puppet, this was a self-assured artist grabbing Pop music with both hands and shaking it down.
A year later and this summer Tove released Kiddo, a twelve track musical manifesto that swings between the empowerment of an ex-teen star and outright vitriol against anyone who won’t let her be herself. Tove’s playful and soft vocals comes across as all sweetness and light but with a knife behind her back; and it’s this underlying antagonism amid a sea of perfectly crafted Pop music that gives Kiddo it’s edge. Tove seems to lay out her grievances with the music industry, grievances with anyone who doesn’t like her new music and grievances with anyone who doesn’t understand her new direction and, basically, tells them to fuck off. All to some particularly Scandinavian and eclectic Pop sounds .
Kiddo hits the ground running with opening salvo that kicks off with Ain’t Got No…, a left-field opener that sways to woozy basslines and a juddering beat while Tove croons her policy statement. It’s on Ain’t Got No… that we are introduced to one of the surprising musical themes running throughout the record. Big, dirty, 303 Acid hooks; the album is packed with them. You’ll be settling into a smooth Pop tune and suddenly, from nowhere, this gritty, distorted TB-303 line with inject itself into the track, cutoff and resonance tweaked to the max. It’s one of the many unexpected teats Kiddo has to offer.
Snaren shows off Kiddo’s other musical motif. On more than one occasion Tove weaves a Dancehall flavour into her songs, bringing Dub spaciousness and rolling snares to the mix. Snaren delivers a ballsy party tune with a comfortable Tropical House vibe to the chorus. A vibe that continues into the single Ego, one of the albums more traditional chart friendly moments with it’s big R&B-lite sing-a-long chorus (and , oh look, a burbling Acid line). A mood that is mirrored on the tongue-in-cheek album closer, Brag.
The likes of Samurai Boy and Walk The Line provide typical ScandiPop fare. All crisp synths and thick production while the Dub-Pop of Burn and the majestic anthem of Decay delve deeper into the album’s physiological dark side (and Acid lines. Seriously, they just appear from nowhere!). The height of the Island influence comes on the single Boarderline, a headstrong hymn that mixes aggression and a Dancehall patter with a oddly Folk like elements which contrast nicely with the Pop ballad turned ominous dark SynthPop of Who’s Got News.
Of the album’s other two singles, Number One feels like the earliest track on Kiddo, maybe Tove shedding her former self? while Even If I’m Loud It Doesn’t Mean I’m Talking To You, the records biggest hit, is a crazy, chanted, literal “fuck off” to anyone pretentious to think themselves above Pop music. Possible the most infectious song of the decade.
Sometimes political, sometimes social, always feminist, Kiddo is not just a coming-of-age for Tove Styrke, but the freeing of someone tired of industry manipulation and has zero fuck to give if you like it or not. Which makes for a supremely confident record which is not-at-all hurt by the fact that it is loaded with infectious, expertly crafted, diverse, perfect Pop.
♫ Tove Styrke – Snaren
♫ Tove Styrke – Decay
Tove Styrke’s Kiddo is out now.
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