Lykke Li: I Never Learn (Ll/Atlantic) Reviews | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Lykke Li

I Never Learn

Ll/Atlantic

May 05, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Lykke Li returns with what is reportedly the third in a loose trilogy including 2008's Youth Novels and 2011's Wounded Rhymes. While the trilogy may be loose, there's no question these albums share the same DNA, with handcrafted, idiosyncratic arrangements and that roomy and natural sound she so favors, a Phil Spector take on skeletal modern pop. It always puts the spotlight squarely on Li's best instrument: her voice. It's a perfect delivery system for all these overflowing hooks, somewhere between smoky and nasal, awash in rich harmonics, crackling at opportune moments, and carrying more than a hint of girl-group yearning and melodrama.   

"I Never Learn" evokes The Church or Love & Rockets with its icy strummed acoustic guitar and synth symphonics, all longing and fascination. "No Rest for the Wicked" opens with a simple piano melody bouncing off the walls, punctuated with "Be My Baby" tom hits as Li paints herself as the wicked one: "I let my good one down/I let my true love die/I had his heart but I broke it every time."

Later, Li's staccato, crackling pleas on the chorus of "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone" absolutely break hearts. With just a few vocal tracks and a room-mic'd acoustic guitar, the song is unabashedly exposed, showing a new vulnerability that it's fair to say is a current throughout the album. No Bo Diddley beats this time aroundthis is very much an introspective, reflective affair, and one that seems to frequently come from a place of sadness or broken romance.

The dark flipside of the emotional earnestness is that a few of these songs are propelled by massive chorus lifts right into the Disney zone. "Heart of Steel" and "Just Like a Dream," for example, both derail great verses with the sheer sap of their oversized choruses. But such are the risks of mining the heart, and you're quickly back to a gem like "Silverline," which aims there a little more subtly, a bit like Stevie Nicks might, resplendent over a dancing guitar, Wurlitzer, and bare-bones percussion. It's quite frankly perfect pop, and despite its occasional missteps, that's something Li's trilogy has flaunted in abundance. (www.lykkeli.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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