Lydmor‘s 2018 album “I Told You I’d Tell Them Our Story” was a creative explosion. Inspired by the singer’s time in Shanghai, it absorbed the cosmopolitan aura of the city and its never-ending buzz, while retaining a very Danish sense of introversion. That record demonstrated Lydmor’s exceptional talent to unite the ununitable. Her new LP “Capacity” takes that concept to the extreme. Conventional meets experimental, fact meets fiction, and underwhelming meets overwhelming.
When I heard “Capacity” for the first time, I felt perplexed. I listened again. And again. I wanted to get it, but each round brought more questions than answers. As a listener, I didn’t understand what this record wanted from me, so as a reviewer, I had no clue how to approach it. But I was determined to get it over with, so I looked at my notes and started writing. The words flowed surprisingly easy. I described the songs, quoted the lyrics, even used a big word like “behemoth”. I was chuffed with the result, until I submitted the text and realised that I wrote a press release.
It was a well-written text that would have been fine to publish. But something felt wrong. At a dinner table, during a work meeting, in bed at night, thoughts about the album would creep in, and I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was trying to get away with an incomplete piece of work. I have never encountered a release that gave me such a hard time. Was I not listening hard enough, or is this just bad music? “I Told You I’d Tell Them Our Story” clicked instantly, so why does getting through “Capacity” feel like such a laborious task?
“Well, you could think of it as a Dali painting,” my colleague said when I shared my frustrations, “it’s confusing, makes you feel lost and sometimes uncomfortable, but you keep coming back to it.” She was right. You walk past a painting at a gallery and decide that it looks pleasant. But you won’t get it unless you take your time with it. You stand there and examine all the little details and shades. You tilt your head or step aside to see it from another angle. The next day, you see this painting on a banner and notice something new. Maybe you still don’t understand what the artist meant, but you feel like you’ve connected with them on some level. Isn’t that the point of art?
“Dali paintings consist of bits that don’t seem to belong together or make sense,” my colleague continued, “but they’re confusing in an interesting way.” Like the colours in a painting, songs on “Capacity” come together through contrasts. There is the airy “Gadget Song”, beat-heavy “LSD Heart”, and Halsey-reminiscent “Guilty (Kill Me)”. Jenny Rossander’s personal reflections are mixed in with fictional storylines. “My body turned to glass last April / Now a lot of people carry little shards around,” she sings in a way that feels honest and heartbreaking, adding that “the circus is back in town.” I wonder if it is the same circus from her 2018 hit “Money Towers”. The opener “Amanda’s Lullaby” sounds more like a marching anthem than a lullaby and makes better sense in the context of a later track “Amanda’s Dream”. “Nevada” takes place at the mysterious Leopold Hotel, which is also referenced in the extended version of “If You Want Capacity” and “Hotel Ads”. The instrumental “Labyrinth-Faced Man” seems to serve no purpose whatsoever. “Emma Spins” is almost unlistenable with its cryptic darkness, but “Diamond Breeze” sounds exactly like you would expect from the title. One of the few songs that Lydmor hadn’t already released or played live, it is basically a stream of consciousness too ambiguous to keep up with, yet it hits the nail on its head with the line “All life happens remotely / And now I’m tangible to myself only.”
Lydmor’s Shanghai album served most of its highlights on a silver platter. “Capacity” makes you do the work. Don’t be lazy with this album. Sit with it like you would in front of a painting. Play it on shuffle. Play it from end to start, and you might even prefer it this way. Ambiguity can be annoying, but it also lets “Capacity” be whatever you need it to be. It will soundtrack house parties as well as the times you just want to be left alone. On an album that feels unmoored from any sense of time or place, Lydmor is more concerned with the journey than the destination. We should be, too.
When I sat down to re-write this piece into something more personal, I wondered if this is what the album wanted from me all along. Did I just expand my capacity, or am I trying to find a meaning that’s not there? Is this a sloppy, disorganised record, or is Lydmor a psychic mastermind? I am undecided. But somehow, like any remarkable painting, “Capacity” feels bigger than the sum of its parts.