Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-08-16

2011-08-16

Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic, 2011) Since neither sex mystics nor Phil Spector fans favor deep thought or articulated emotion, I'm sure the lissome Li has no more to say in Swedish than in the English she writes in. The meaning's in the music, which to her considerable benefit shares the widespread Stockholm suspicion that the distinction between pop and dance music isn't worth troubling yourself over, but is nonetheless pinned for appearance's sake to the shades of yearning that mark it verbally. Philosophically and psychologically, it's pretty silly. But it would be priggish to show the door to a gal who can add so much pseudotribal percussion to a perfect 10 in the tune department. Ah to be young and full of come. Dumb I'll leave to those who think she's got a bead on tragedy and whatnot. A-

Withered Hand: Good News (Absolutely Kosher, 2011) Somebody with more youth cred than me should tell a world that takes EMA seriously about backslid Edinburgh Christian Dan Willson, whose wife bought him an acoustic guitar for his 30th birthday so he'd have something he could sing louder than. Quavering wordy tunes that make Belle and Sebastian sound like the Beach Boys, only he has a band and they really are tunes, he surveys his doubt-ridden world with uneasy resolve and disillusioned, self-deprecating wit. A few couplets of a shaky anthem called "Religious Songs" suggest what he's capable of: "I don't really know what the wine was for/cos if it was Jesus' blood wouldn't there be more"; "Well, I beat myself off when I sleep on your futon/I walk in the rain with my secondhand suit on"; "'How does he expect to be happy/when he listens to death metal bands.'" A-

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