Karin Dreijer returns with Radical Romantics, their highly collaborative third album under the solo moniker Fever Ray — with production from heavy hitters like Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and multiple features from Karin’s brother/former bandmate in the Knife, Olaf Dreijer. Opener “What They Call Us” reflects on the fear behind the experience of queer relationships in the context of an increasingly hateful world (“Did you hear what they call us? / Did you hear what they said?”), and in a way creates a framework for the whole album. Subsequent tracks follow this lead, exploring similar narrative and thematic territory, enriching the record’s conceptual core as it goes along. Which isn’t to say that this is a particularly sad record; it takes on the many emotions that love can elicit, ultimately favoring a joyous approach rather than a cynical one, a celebration of that full spectrum of feeling despite the challenges that come with it.
The Knife reunion here is likewise born out of a sense of purpose — rather than mere convenience — as the tracks that feature both Dreijers extend the record’s considerations beyond romance and into the realm of familial love. There’s both an intimacy and intensity to the music, as heavy synthesizers and intense pop beats surround and threaten to suck the listener into a whirlpool of emotions, creating a palpable tension throughout the eclectic, varied record — a forceful, but not unpleasant, presence in which to let oneself be enveloped. Radical Romantics closes with a meditative, seven-minute ocean soundscape that acts as a sort of cooldown. It’s a bold choice, one that most artists couldn’t pull off without some assumption of pompous pretension. But here it feels almost necessary, a welcome release from spending so much time toeing the edge of an abyss. And it’s intuitive choices like this that help push a good album toward being a great one — one that should both please Fever Ray’s old fans and entice new ones.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 12.