Britta Persson may have inherited the Swedish national knack for melodic hooks, but her intimate, decidedly idiosyncratic singer/songwriter approach has little in common with the demure twee and melancholic pop fare most often associated with her native land. Kill Hollywood Me, the follow-up to her acclaimed, enigmatic debut, moves further beyond the sparse, acoustic territory of her early EPs, offering a blend of arty pop, indie folk, and smart, gritty rock that recalls the '90s alternative likes of Liz Phair, Tracy Bonham, and Tanya Donelly, with a mix of whimsy and sentiment akin to Regina Spektor and Nellie McKay. Lead track and first single "Cliffhanger" starts things off on a particularly tough, rocky note -- it sounds surprisingly angry for a song about a promising relationship, although that's somewhat tempered by the melodic sweetness of the chorus, which fantasizes about parenthood and domestic bliss, years down the line. Persson has explained the phrase "kill Hollywood me" in reference to her wish to take herself less seriously, to focus on simplicity and happiness instead of a cinematic glamorization of love and relationships -- "memories and fantasies are to be seen as enemies," she sings on the title tune -- and that struggle is evident throughout the album's frequently lovelorn, self-doubting lyrics, which find her alternately renouncing and half-heartedly succumbing to the vicissitudes of modern romance. "If you're scared of goodbyes, don't say hello all the time" she reminds herself in "U-Turns," vowing to stay home at night and pursue "healthy love with healthy people." But "Can I Touch?" finds her out playing the field again, somewhat fatalistically wooing a prospective one-night stand with the come on "Who needs a head when you've got a heart?," which becomes an oddly triumphant group singalong. Ultimately, as much as she may strive not to let her romantic tendencies get the better of her -- "to invest and not get obsessed," as she puts it on the gentle, country-ish "In or Out," which features the unconvincing assertion that "this is about as fun as it gets/between happiness and unhappiness" -- she makes the alternative sound a good deal more gratifying, especially on the upbeat "Happy Hour," whose easygoing folk-pop lope and Sophie B. Hawkins-referencing refrain (or not; after all, there's a certain universality to the phrase "damn I wish I was your lover") make for one of the album's most engaging moments. Admittedly, untangling the album's textual intricacies without a lyric sheet can require some close listening, what with Persson's distinct accent and sometimes bizarre phrasing, but that's hardly a prerequisite for enjoying its richly textured, unconventional arrangements, and it shouldn't stop Kill Hollywood Me from appealing to listeners who don't mind a refreshing dollop of originality in their songwriter pop.
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AllMusic Review by K. Ross Hoffman