Continuing the theme of one-named women from foreign lands, we jump from Duffy to Robyn. Robyn is a Swedish pop star who wrestled with record execs who weren’t happy with her new direction, bought out her contract and started her own label. This self-titled album was released in Sweden a year or so ago but reached U.S. shores just last month. Her story reminds me a bit of Aimee Mann, who was entangled in record comapny meddling after early success with ‘Til Tuesday only to launch her own label and self-release her more ambitious solo work. Robyn isn’t in Mann’s league, but she’s crafted a very good album.
It seems the artists who are finding the most critical success these days are masters of fusion — M.I.A.’s blend of hip-hop and world music, Duffy’s mix of 60s soul and modern beats, Vampire Weekend’s marriage of Graceland-style African rhythms with alternative rock. Robyn continues the trend, her music mixing a little bit of hip-hop, a little bit of techno and a whole lot of 80s pop into a mostly irresistible blend. The influences I recognize most are Prince and Cyndi Lauper (one of the best tracks here, ‘Be Mine,’ could be a lost single from She’s So Unusual).
Most of Robyn is upbeat and infectious. Her lyrics are clever and the production is rock-solid. The one true ballad, ‘Eclipse,’ is lovely as well. My one complaint is that the album feels a bit long and the two weakest tracks come right at the end. So often these days it seems artists pad more songs than are necessary and their albums suffer for it. But that minor quibble aside, Robyn is yet another strong 2008 release (a year that is turning out to be particularly good for female artists).