Once you hear about the background of Sweden-via-Iran artist XOV, it’s hard be objective about his story (fleeing but easy to understand the sound. After finding fame on Lorde‘s Hunger Games soundtrack, Damian Ardestani’s debut album Wild is a tour of the darkest corners of commercial pop.
It starts off simply on Lucifer: “I used to be a lover, now I’m a hater/ My passion to succeed is watching them bleed,” which seems to be a pretty pertinent mission statement. Part-Weeknd, part buzz-blog sound, Ardestani persistently wrenches his vocals of a pattern of loops and atmospheric drums. It’s that simplicity which is often his downfall – whether the lyrics (referencing utopia and nirvana on Blood Honey) are merely just the casualties of translation it’s hard to discern, but they certainly don’t help some very unimaginative structures.
XOV has Erik Hassle-esque potential, for sure. But a song like Boys Don’t Cry is sparse in the wrong kind of way and ends up sounding more like a karaoke version of a better song. The way Wild unfolds proves to be an interesting dichotomy when compared to another Swedish refugee’s debut album; but where Zhala turned that isolation into a cosmic fantasy world, XOV remains closed, cloistered, and very much in one mindframe. For an album called Wild – and for a man who has had more colourful a past than most – it’s all surprisingly tame.
Wild by XOV can be ordered here.