Robyn’s strong suit has always been taking the melancholy and spinning it into something you can dance to. Some of her biggest modern hits, Dancing on my Own and Be Mine! were both upbeat electro-pop songs that could sound bright and exciting on the top, but revealed a more heart-wrenching aspect when you paid attention to the lyrics. For Love Is Free, her newest EP accompanied by the unit La Bagatelle Magique including her keyboardist Markus Jägerstedt and the late Christian Falk, the melancholy takes an unexpected back seat.
Instead, what we get is a collection of songs straight from the 90s. The EP’s first single Love Is Free is a straight house track with some tribal elements, and repeats itself constantly over five minutes; Robyn’s lyrics aren’t all that diverse, and the song uses the same elements throughout, cycling through them rather than evolving. It might be a little riskier than you would expect for a modern dance market, but it’s a perfect encapsulation of one of the defining eras of house music.
Lose Control, Got To Work It Out and Set Me Free are more straightforward synth-pop tracks with the retro spin on them, and therefore feel like a safer bet to catch your interest than Love Is Free. Despite Set Me Free and its explosively euphoric chorus, the real winner of these tracks is Got To Work It Out, with its mechanical vibe and heavily filtered vocals in the chorus, it’s a throwback to a different side of the 90s that has a welcome spot on the EP.
The EP closes with a huge bang on Tell You (Today), a cover of the Loose Joints song from the 80s. The brass, bass and whistle melodies are all intact, but the modernised house beat and Robyn’s distinctive vocals make it almost like an entirely new song. Its only downside is that it leaves you with a feeling that almost four minutes of it wasn’t enough; another minute or two, and it would have been an even bigger success.
So while it’s a little different from your usual Robyn fare, Love Is Free proves that she can cheer up and get down with the best of them. It’s a refreshing collection of throwback hits that could easily have been explored over an entire album without growing stale, but covers adequate ground to feel like its own complete piece of work despite only containing five songs. Compared to the dark and brooding atmosphere of Do It Again, her EP with Röyksopp, it comes as a welcome breath of fresh air.