Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Queen of the Clouds | Tove Lo


★★★☆☆

Mentions of Swedish musician Tove Lo have been brewing in the hipster realm for quite some time now. Earlier this year, after writing for big names in music like Lea Michele and Icona Pop, she decided to take the jump as a solo artist by dropping the Truth Serum extended play. Fast forward six months after the release of her first EP, and now the excitement surrounding Lo has finally come to a head as she moves ahead with the release of her debut full-length album, Queen of the Clouds. The dingy synthpop album works as a concept album, being split into three sections: "The Sex," "The Love," and "The Pain."

On the beginning portion of the album, "The Sex," we find three carefree tracks representing the spontaneous and unexpected first sexual encounter. On "Like Em Young," a peppy album opener, Lo turns to being a cougar-in-the-making as she seduces her younger partner: "Hey boy, you're too young for me / But I don't care cause you're all I see / I like 'em young." She amps up the sex drive on the steamy "Talking Body" before closing the first chapter of the album with "Timebomb." The latter track is a half-sung, half-rapped track in which Lo links "The Sex" with "The Love" by debating the choice to advance further into a relationship: "What's the worst thing that could happen / When the worst thing that could happen / Could be the best thing ever?"

The middle portion of the album contains four love-stricken tracks. In "Moments," another systematic track thriving on its chorus, Lo admits all of her flaws but promises to be a great partner: "I am not the prettiest you've ever seen / But I have my moments, I have my moments / Not the flawless one, I've never been / But I have my moments, I have my moments." In the middle of the chapter of "The Love," we get another formulated track, "Got Love," and also find Lo at what may be her most intimate moment on the album in "The Way That I Am." The song utilizes an emotional rasp in Lo's voice as she sings "You can point fingers all you want, I don't care / I love you anyway / Yeah, I'm falling in love and I hope that you want me / The way that I am."

That raspy quality comes up every so often throughout this album; in actuality, Lo's vocal timbre mirrors an unexpectedly high-quality blend of Miley Cyrus and Hayley Williams of Paramore. Speaking of Cyrus, the Tove Lo equivalent to "Wrecking Ball" also makes an appearance in "The Love" chapter of Queen of the Clouds, titled "Not On Drugs." Lo's chorus is equally as hard-hitting as Miley's number one single when the instrumentation swells as Lo sings, "Baby, don't you see? / I'm not on drugs, I'm not on drugs / I'm just in love / You're high enough for me." If you only have the time to listen to one song from this album, spend that time listening to "Not on Drugs," because you won't be sorry.

Contrary to the lyrical content of "Not on Drugs," Lo has had moderate exposure worldwide due to a song in which she claims to be constantly high. In Lo's breakthrough track, "Habits (Stay High)," she openly sings, "You're gone and I've gotta stay high all the time / To keep my mind off of you." In terms of the three sections of the album, "Habits" is quite obviously in the realm of "The Pain." Also categorized in the last third of the album are the songs "Thousand Miles" and the surprisingly-sunny finale to the album, "This Time Around," that proves every storm cloud has a silver lining.

For a pop debut, Lo did a sufficient job. Overall, the songs are quite systematic and rely a bit too much on the ear-grabbing choruses to carry them, but each song ends up being unique in its own way. Lyrically, Lo is simplistic and casual, which is good for songs aimed for radio domination, but I can definitely applaud Lo for being able to craft a sexual party album without automatically reverting to explicit lyrics and straight-up penis talk à la Nicki Minaj. However, with many other synthpop contemporaries releasing competing albums this year (including Lights, whose album drops just one week prior to Lo's), Queen of the Clouds could have used a little more rumble within its cracks of thunder.

Queen of the Clouds will be released September 30, 2014 via Island Records.

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