Swedish singer Tove Lo works a killer pop paradox: her songs sleek and sheer, her bare-knuckled lyrics delivered with chill concision. But her world is a mess of bleary late nights and confessional abandon: “Give zero fucks about it,” she sings on “True Disaster,” from her second LP. “I know I’m gonna get hurt.” Lucky for us, she gives as good as she gets.
Tove Lo got her start working in Max Martin’s Top 40 laboratory, and there are elements of crash-test Britney Spears and Robyn’s introspective dance-pop in her sound. She’s especially good making odd, even uncomfortable phrases seem as natural as hip-hop bons mots: “You give me lady wood,” she notes effortlessly on the title track. Lady Wood doesn’t have anything that hits quite as hard as “Stay High (Habits)” and “Talking Body,” standout singles from her 2014 debut. But its minimalist tech-house sound has a darkly textured allure; “Cool Girl” builds a noirishly predatory thumper out of a reference to a line from the novel Gone Girl, while “Vibes” deploys spidery acoustic guitar and creepy low-end blurps as she sings “I want you to lick my wounds.” Whether she’s high as fuck (“Influence”) or stranded on the dance floor (“WTF Love Is”), she thrives on the power of losing yourself in sounds you can dominate and emotions you’ll never contain.