By Anthony Cesario
Listening to a Tove Lo album is like stepping into a dimly lit, underground nightclub and doing everything you can to forget the problems in your life. Her new album, Dirt Femme – and her first release as an independent artist – continues the trend. It’s her most polished addition yet to an already fantastic discography.
While Tove Lo’s last album Sunshine Kitty was uncharacteristically lighter and happier in sound (though still incredibly strong), Dirt Femme is a return to the dark pop style for which she’s most known. Fans of her hits “Talking Body” and “Habits (Stay High)” are sure to appreciate this record’s slick, dance-pop sound and lyrical candor. It is, perhaps, a little less immediate than your average Tove Lo album (I wasn’t sold on it at first), but greatly rewards additional listens.
Much of Tove Lo’s work has grappled with the dark underbelly of her femininity, but Dirt Femme is more introspective than ever before. Look past the pulsing beats of “Grapefruit” and you’ll find a deeply emotional confessional about her experiences with diet culture and eating disorders. “Suburbia” is an eerie synthpop jam that finds her challenging the notion that women may only find fulfillment by having children. “True Romance” – recorded in one take – is her most gripping and raw vocal performance ever. And “Pineapple Slice” is quite possibly the most filthy Tove Lo song to date, which says a lot because she has been explicitly sexual in her music since day one.
Dirt Femme’s lyrical content already gives it much more depth than any old typical pop album, but the sonical aspects are not to be ignored. Most of the record has an ‘80s dance-pop sound, but there are also quite a few experimental moments that make for some of Tove Lo’s most captivating songs. “Cute & Cruel,” a duet with folk act First Aid Kit, brings to mind some of Madonna’s ambitious and underappreciated early ‘00s work; “I’m to Blame” blends hip-hop and Oasis-era indie rock; the looping techno beats of “Kick in the Head” channel Fatboy Slim. All the while, Dirt Femme manages to be impressively cohesive.
For anyone who has been unable to get into Tove Lo’s music in the past, Dirt Femme is unlikely to change their mind. But it is undeniably Tove Lo working at her very best. With its blend of pop-friendly production and emotional weight, Dirt Femme is one of the strongest releases of an already great year of music.