Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo has returned with her latest album, Dirt Femme. Though it is her fifth studio album, this will be her first project released under her own record label, Pretty Swede Records.
Known for painting dark hues over euphoric feelings, she sticks to her grunge-pop roots that we all know and love. She details the aftermath of falling in love, and the bittersweet nature of the phenomena that often makes us feel alive. However, some of the more intriguing moments are about challenging society’s tendency to put everyone into a box. Even if the confines of said box goes against one’s own happiness.
Our worth is often treated as conditional given that we live a certain lifestyle and fit the mold. But what happens if you don’t fit? For example, in “Suburbia,” she rejects the white picket fence fantasy. Settling down with a spouse and kids isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, though it’s what’s expected. Especially if you’re a woman! She persists, “You’re the love of my life / But I-I-I can’t be no Stepford wife.” Making it clear that taking power over your own journey is truly the only way to live.
Lyrically, the album is quite straightforward, but touches on sensitive topics effortlessly. “Grapefruit” details the strain of an eating disorder: “Counting all the calories, not get ’em up.” Again, addressing another facet of conformity (i.e., the concept of beauty) through her own personal experiences.
The synth on “2 Die 4” is a tad brassy, but evokes high spirits. I love songs that seem to embody the artist’s perception of freedom, and this one is essentially about bathing in euphoria. “Drag you out at midnight to dance in headlights and making out in the rain” is just pure joy!
“No One Dies From Love” is a fantastic opener. Her rhythmic flair is engaging and mellow. I imagine it holding hands with “2 Die 4,” as they both represent the dichotomy between the sweet and sour aspects of love. Exemplifying the freedom that comes from giving your true self to someone, even if your heart is on the line!
Tove Lo delivers an impressive soprano performance. Her rasp is prominent and her falsetto is charming on “True Romance.” An ethereal, haunting depiction of a lover ready to draw blood at the first threat to their perfect liaison.
The acoustic guitar (an unexpected pleasure) on “I’m to Blame” complements the slight huskiness in her tone. She sings about feeling responsible for the downfall of her relationship (“Pulling us apart is all I’m good for”).
The collaborations on this album weren’t very striking, but seemed to make up the more lighthearted tracks. “Pineapple Slice” with SG Lewis is a chill, sensual jam (“You gotta taste what’s in front of you”). However, “Attention Whore” featuring Channel Tres proved underwhelming, as it felt like a repetitive filler.
Much of this project is percussion-driven. Among them are my favorite tracks, “Kick In The Head” and “How Long.” Ending with a bang, the rest of Dirt Femme pales in comparison! “Kick In The Head” is an incredibly satisfying change of pace with a funky beat. The “mmm” ad libs are captivating, and the chorus is fun to sing along to. Similar to “Suburbia,” it’s about wanting to forge your own path, except the downside is feeling uninspired or as though you’re falling behind. It can also be applied to the earlier theme of worth, and how society pressures us to be productive by any means necessary.
The closing track, “How Long” sounds like a callback to “I’m to Blame.” She confronts her partner’s disloyalty and acknowledges the lack of control she has over the reality of the situation. “I know the heart wants what it wants / There’s no way to prepare for burning, brutal rejection.” To top it all off, I adore the futuristic synth and crisp cadence!
Dirt Femme is a solid twelve tracks fueled by heartbreak, untamed romance, and the desire to prioritize authenticity is every single way.