"Hey, remember me? I've been busy working like crazy," Karin Dreijer sings on Plunge, but even though Fever Ray's second album arrived eight years after the project's self-titled debut and five years after the Knife's Shaking the Habitual, there's no chance listeners could forget her. With both of those acts, Dreijer pioneered crystalline electronic sounds that became the blueprint for many acts during her absence. However, Plunge reaffirms that she's still more fearless than most of her would-be peers. Even if it wasn't originally a surprise release, the album's title reflects how it feels like a sudden, total immersion in the unexpected. Dreijer got as much as she could out of pure darkness on Fever Ray; this time, she throws more light on her music, and it's stranger and brighter-sounding than it has been in years. Often, Plunge recalls the way the Knife filtered tropical melodies through an iceberg on their early albums, whether it's the way the synths sound like steel drums and splashing water on the title track, or the way "IDK About You" resembles a futuristic-yet-feral mating ritual thanks to a galloping beat courtesy of Portuguese producer Nidia. Yet Plunge sounds fresher -- sharper -- than the Knife's later releases, even as it touches on similar concepts. Since Silent Shout, Dreijer has eloquently expressed the need for intimacy, and its consequences, by blurring the lines between love songs and horror themes. It's a tradition she upholds on songs like "Falling," which echoes the ice-burnt isolation of Fever Ray, but also on the fierce and tempting "Wanna Sip" and the equally nightmarish and poignant "An Itch," both of which explore the potentially terrifying possibility of connecting with someone else. The fear and hope surrounding letting the right one in peaks on "Red Trails," where Dreijer sings about a vampiric relationship ("blood was our favorite paint/You were my favorite pain") over violin and a ricocheting beat to stunning effect. Elsewhere, she makes the album's defiance overtly political on "This Country," where "Destroy boring" and "Every time we fuck, we win" are key parts of her manifesto, and on "To the Moon and Back," where she makes her bold statements all the more subversive by setting them to deceptively sugary sounds. Dreijer matches these wild moments with a wish to belong that, remarkably, doesn't feel contradictory. The somber patience of "Mustn't Hurry" and "A Part of Us" culminates with "Mama's Hand," which gives the album a surprisingly happy conclusion thanks to "a little thing called love." The journey to dive into commitment that Dreijer takes her listeners on with Plunge boasts more moods and colors than Fever Ray's debut, or any single Knife album; ultimately, it's some of her most powerful work with yet. ~ Heather Phares
- Format: Vinyl
- Genre: Pop
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Meta Artist: Fever Ray