Monday, 5 May 2014

Lykke Li - I Never Learn Review

In 2008, fresh-faced Swede Li Lykke Timotej Svensson Zachrisson (better known as Lykke Li) was making waves with her dreamy yet powerful electropop singles 'Little Bit' and 'I'm Good, I'm Gone'. The hype was truly justified by her phenomenal debut album 'Youth Novels' which followed shortly after. Then, in 2011 she avoided the notorious ‘second album slump’ with the primal stomp of the single 'Get Some' in which she offered to be 'your prostitute' and the huge European hit and festival anthem 'I Follow Rivers' from her equally brilliant sophomore record 'Wounded Rhymes'. After some time away from the spotlight, Li returns with a much darker yet equally melodic approach in form of I Never Learn.

'I rather bake a pie than make a happy song', Li told Fader TV in a recent interview, I kind of got this impression from the crushing sadness that clouds I Never Learn. But one must remember, to her sadness is a blessing (as well as a curse). Li doesn't wallow in self-pity for too long though, she doesn't really have time; the album is only 33 minutes long. Whether this was bold or simply pretentious on her part, it pulled the record away from the brink of total despair and makes it easier to enjoy as a whole. The clear standout is the recent single 'Gunshot'; like the title suggests, the theatrical blow of the chorus hits you, well, like a bullet. I can't say I wasn't slightly apprehensive when Li earlier described the tracks on here as 'power-ballads', I was honestly expecting cheap, dated piano-rock a la Celine Dion. Thankfully this wasn't the case, lead single 'No Rest For the Wicked' is elegant piano pop at it's very best.

A slight issue I have with this record however is Li's diction, which at times is pretty awful bearing in mind she speaks perfectly good English with only a hint of a Swedish accent. On powerful mid-tempo tracks this isn't such an issue but on the ballads, it can be quite aggravating. The subdued vocal delivery on the track 'Silverline' almost translates as mumbling. The reverb doesn't help in this case, but elsewhere, like on the track 'Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone' it adds a certain warmth to the cold and desperate lyrics. 

Despite this album's flaws, I do admire Li's boldness; not only is this album raw and powerful in sound, she really does bear her soul in the lyrics. In all the sorrow she still manages to maintain her sharp ear for melody and killer choruses (see 'Gunshot' and 'Heart Of Steel'). As much I would of loved another 'I Follow Rivers' and God knows how happy another 'Get Some' would have made me, Lykke Li has stayed true to herself and for that I respect her. As this is 'the last in a sonic trilogy', I have no idea what's next for Li, but whatever happens she can be proud that she has created some of the most honest and powerful pop albums of the last decade.


Best Tracks: I Never Learn, No Rest For The Wicked, Gunshot, Never Gonna Love Again, Heart of Steel

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