If there’s a distinguishing feature that differentiates Robyn’s Love Is Free, a collaboration with keyboardist Markus Jägerstedt and the late Swedish producer Christian Falk, from both last year’s Do It Again and 2010’s Body Talk EPs, it’s that the songs on the singer’s latest mini-album take a decidedly more purist approach to the retro stylings that were hinted at in her previous work. Whether it’s lead single “Love Is Free,” a clattering acid-house mash-up of hiccupping synths, digitized cowbell, and insistent bass (even guest artist Maluca’ rap, which includes a reference to “safe like a rubber,” is charmingly antiquated), the Italo-disco “Got to Work It Out,” or a cover of Loose Joints’ “Tell You (Today),” the five tracks here allow Robyn to dip more directly into her influences than ever before. Lyrically, the songs are more celebratory and anthemic than the dourer, more lovelorn material that’s made Robyn a cult favorite in recent years. This is, no doubt, a result of the music itself, which is far more bombastic than electro-pop dance ballads like “Dancing on My Own” or “With Every Heartbeat.” Robyn’s distorted calls for independence are punctuated by horns a third of the way through the standout “Set Me Free,” and then again during a second break, two-thirds of the way into the song, with an added chorus of layered background vocal parts and swirling synths. Unlike Body Talk, where the frustrating sense of an abbreviated creative statement could be forgiven by the assurance that Robyn’s vision would be fulfilled by further volumes, or Do It Again, which served as a complement to Röyksopp’s The Inevitable End, Love Is Free feels comparatively tossed off, merely a bridge between Robyn 2.0 and an incarnation of the dance-pop icon we—and she—haven’t yet imagined.
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