The enigmatic Swedish musician Fever Ray released their third studio album today, Radical Romantics. It includes contributions from several artists, most notably Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the duo behind Nine Inch Nails.
NIN co-produce a playground revenge bit called “Even It Out.” The song begins with the lyrics, “This is for Zacharias, who bullied my kid in high school.” Trent and Atticus cameo in the “Even It Out” music video as characters named “Drum Slayer” and “Keyboardist.” Later, they provide music on a more somber track called “North.”
In addition to NIN, Radical Romantics includes production from Fever Ray’s cohort in The Knife, Olof Dreijer, who produces its first four tracks. UK musician Vessel assists on the pre-release single, “Carbon Dioxide,” and Portuguese producer Nídia works on “Looking for a Ghost.”
Radical Romantics’ best and worst songs
The production on Radical Romantics is often ugly and brash, much like the visual aesthetic Karin Dreijer has adopted for this album cycle. It’s full of high-pitched squawks and cavernous drum thumps. The sprightly chord progressions that filled previous record Plunge and their early work in The Knife are mostly absent.
Karin has veered far from the earthly mysticism of their solo debut as Fever Ray. That 2009 masterpiece explored motherhood with transcendent sounds and poetic lyrics—”If I had a heart, I could love you. If I had a voice, I would sing,” they once famously crooned.
On Radical Romantics, they’re threatening a schoolyard bully. I find the frankness of “Even It Out” silly and off-putting—it’s one of the least successful songs on the album. The album’s first single, “What They Call Us,” plays better as an album opener though I still feel like it limps along, going nowhere. Don’t even get me started its closing track, “Bottom of the Ocean,” which is nothing more than senseless warbles for seven indulgent minutes.
Radical Romantics’ best songs feel more like classic Fever Ray. The blippy firecracker “Carbon Dioxide” remains its standout. Karin gleams on the excellent “Shiver,” one of the tracks produced by their brother Olof. Meanwhile, “Looking for a Ghost” adopts the tinny vocal effect Karin employed on old Knife tracks.