Karin Dreijer makes music that you feel before you understand. They can be brash and spontaneous. The wild performances on 2017’s Plunge were the first thing you noticed. But what comes next are the questions: “What did all that mean?”, “Why does this country make it hard to fuck?” Even at their most upfront, Fever Ray confounds, to the point that you might expect to be puzzled going into a new album.
Radical Romantics (their first in five years) is in some ways familiar territory. Songs like ‘Kandy’, ‘What They Call Us’ and ‘New Utensils’ are instantly gripping, but they’re also built on classic Fever Ray ideas – bright synth leads, fluid percussion, and plenty of space for Dreijer’s vocal. There are grooves (‘Carbon Dioxide’ is a glorious rave centrepiece) but these songs are more hypnotic than amplified.
Without a new sound palette to explore, that baffling feeling is replaced by purposeful writing. Lyrically, Dreijer is wide-reaching, unafraid to say something ugly, outlandish or sensitive depending on the track. On ‘Even It Out’, they berate their child’s high-school bully. On ‘Tapping Fingers’, they capture the private world you enter lying next to your partner before sleep. The through-line is a focus on love in all its forms. Closer ‘Bottom of the Ocean’ is the only underwhelming moment, lacking the direction of what’s come before.
Radical Romantics is elastic in its approach to love. Like all of Fever Ray’s best music, it’s deeper than it first appears on the dazzling surface.
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