The Swedish are the masters of happy/sad pop — uplifting and downcast at once — right back to the highs/lows of ABBA.
Sweden’s coolest pop export Robyn created the most miserable yet euphoric dance song of all time with her 2010 classic Dancing On My Own.
Unfortunately, Robyn’s personal life has been more sad than happy since her last album eight years ago, Body Talk.
The tracklist for Honey runs in virtually in order of when the songs were written, with Robyn working through the stages of pain and grief.
Missing U (which doubles as an ode to a friend who died and an her ex) is a work of art — even down to still finding new ways to verbalise loss like using the word “residue” to set the scene. It also sets the musical tone for Honey’s aesthetic — minimal electronics creating maximum intensity. Soft doesn’t have to mean weak or passive.
Human Being (one of several tracks written with new collaborator, Metronomy’s Joseph Mount) is dark and unhinged — a raw snapshot at her bleakest. Then you’re instantly dropped directly into Honey’s most poptastic moment, Because It’s In the Music.
While the music channels Studio 54-era string-drenched disco joy, in the song-about-a-song Robyn’s lamenting a tune that reminds her of her ex, the one she keeps playing anyway. And she’s wondering if he’s playing it too and thinking about them. It’s your new happy/sad banger.
Baby Forgive Me’s deep bass is a club comedown with Robyn pleading for one more try. It bleeds directly into the haunting Send to Robyn Immediately, which samples Lil Louis’ carnal house classic French Kiss. It’s incredible.
Robyn spent over a year perfecting the title track. It was time well spent. Mission accomplished.
Between the Lines and Beach 2k20 use clubbing as therapy (only Robyn can make “let’s go party” not sound inane) — tapping into that ’90s house era of Deee-Lite and Crystal Waters but as rebooted by a wounded robot in rebuilding mode.
Ever Again ends things with Giorgio Moroder meets Miami Vice sun-kissed ’80s electro and a resolute Robyn stating she’s “never gonna be broken hearted, ever again” as the direct lyrical bookend to where we started the record — an emotional rescue.
Not just the new blueprint for modern pop that matters, Honey is already the finest album of 2018 so far. /CAMERON ADAMS
Try this if you like: Metronomy, Michael Jackson
GANG OF YOUTHS
MTV Unplugged Live in Melbourne (Sony)
Gang of Youths always fully commit. Their Unplugged concert is a masterpiece. Strings twist and dance where guitars once did on Let Me Down Easy, Fear and Trembling trades grunt for spine-tingling emotion, The Heart is a Muscle a stunning rendezvous of rock band, orchestra and David Le’aupepe’s voice and truth. Persevere, about the death of a friend’s baby, is intimate and powerful. Not a between studio albums stop gap, rather a turning point./CA
Try this if you like: Bruce Springsteen, The War on Drugs
Broken Politics (Smalltown Supersound)
The iconic Cherry continues her collaboration with artists Four Tet. Like 2014’s Blank Project, it’s reflective and far from soft. Single Kong sounds like vintage Massive Attack (the band’s 3D is on board), Fallen Leaves taps into Ryuichi Sakamoto ambience without losing any power. Cherry moves into hypnotic poet mode on Deep Vein Thrombosis, and for those keen for Buffalo Stance era Cherry (she doesn’t do nostalgia) try the dancehall rhythms of Natural Skin Deep or the beats of Shot Gun Shack./CA
Try this if you like: Massive Attack, Robyn, Tricky