Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson hasn’t needed a reviewer to describe her music since she called an album So Sad So Sexy in 2018. Pouting and heartbroken has been the Swedish singer’s USP all the way back to the time she sang “For you I keep my legs apart, and forget about my tainted heart,” on the haunting Scandipop of her debut single, Little Bit, 15 years ago. Her third album, I Never Learn, was her darkest hour, with the cover appearing to show her wearing a funeral veil, and here on her fifth she’s back in that blackest territory.
Once again she’s described it in advance in vividly intriguing terms: “I wanted the record to have the intimacy of listening to a voice memo on a macro dose of LSD.” It also sounds like the 36-year-old is well past the point of trying for anything approaching a hit single. In an interview in 2019 she said: “I’m probably at the tail-end of my career so I really want to go out in style and do something that’s exactly what I want to do.”
That means a collection of just eight songs, largely without beats, deliberately clocking in at 33 minutes and 33 seconds to complement the palindrome of the title. EYEYE is also a video experience, but with less of the extravagance of Beyoncé’s visual albums and more blurry arthouse minimalism. There’s a depiction of what looks like an extremely unhappy relationship between the singer and her co-star, and a car accident, but each clip operates on a brief loop. It’s meant to reflect the way we consume media nowadays, without the patience for longer videos, but really just feels too cryptic and unsatisfying.
The music, too, is her flimsiest yet, at times possessing a stark beauty, as when a fluttering keyboard line descends onto the surface of Highway to Your Heart, but often also sounding like a demo waiting to be sharpened up from its sketched origins. The way she layers her fragile voice still has great appeal, especially on the lilting, shimmering Carousel, and she still seems to have plenty to say when it comes to breakups: “With a little sun outside you were mine/But it was never set in stone,” she coos on 5D. There’s a little more sonic variety when some distant drums materialise out of the haze towards the close, but generally EYEYE is very slow, very sad and probably too bleak to qualify as sexy this time too.