Swedish singer/songwriter Tove Lo followed her hit single "Habits (Stay High)" -- a disarmingly vulnerable recounting of all the shocking things she does to numb a painful breakup -- with Queen of the Clouds, a debut album that falls somewhere between Icona Pop's sugar rush hedonism and Sia's moody confessions. A good friend of Icona Pop's Caroline Hjelt (and co-writer of the group's "Ready for the Weekend"), like Sia, Tove originally thought she'd have a better chance at a pop career by penning songs for others than in the spotlight herself. However, her songwriting background ensures that Queen of the Clouds has plenty of hooks, as well as a high-concept approach: she organizes pop's eternal concerns of lust, love, and heartbreak into a set of songs that breaks the span of an entire relationship into thirds. While the spoken-word snippets that introduce each part of the album aren't strictly necessary, the format gives Queen of the Clouds more emotional resonance and balance as it spans seize-the-moment highs such as the fizzy, P!nk-esque "Timebomb," the openness of "The Way That I Am," and the loss of "Thousand Miles." Tove also proves her electro-pop has a similar range with songs that range from bouncy ("Not on Drugs") to sleek (the EDM moves of "Run on Love"). However, it's Tove's frankness that makes her truly distinctive. "Habits (Stay High)," with its tales of going to sex clubs and gorging on Twinkies, is still Queen of the Clouds' standout, although "Moments," where she admits "On the good days I am charming as f*ck," is a close second. By owning her mistakes, she turns them into strengths -- and delivers a winning first album in the process.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares