Lykke Li - I Never Learn (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
YOU can almost guarantee that a new album from Swedish singer-songwriter is going to be among the best of the year. And so it proves that her thrd collection of songs, I Never Learn, is another majestic effort.
Co-produced by long-time collaborator Björn Yttling, Greg Kurstin and for the first time by Lykke herself, the LP is the concluding part of a trilogy that takes its inspiration from her LA surroundings where much of the record was recorded.
Lykke commented herself: “Every song on the album is a power ballad. Like one of those old radio stations. This is a slow dance; a slow burner.”
It’s also an intimate listen and one that, belatedly, is marked by sadness, or heartbreak (as evidenced in the title alone).
But rather than wallowing in grief, Li has delivered a set of songs that are marked by moments of instrumental beauty, which only make her ethereal vocals all the more pronounced and striking.
Opening track and title offering I Never Learn is awash with some great instrumental arrangements that serve to underline the bittersweet vibe of what follows.
Former single No Rest For The Wicked then serves up a real treat. Built around a stark but memorable piano chord and some atmospheric beats, as well as those ethereal vocals, this has a wonderfully bittersweet vibe about it, while remaining achingly beautiful, and even hypnotic, into the bargain.
Li says of the track herself: “No Rest For The Wicked is the second song I wrote for the album. I wrote it in Sweden when I was packing up my shit, and I’d just gotten out of a relationship and it was a horrible time. I just had the hurt, shame, sadness, guilt, longing. The vocal track, the take, is the demo. In the verse, I’m referring to myself pleading guilty but I’m referring to all of us.”
Just Like A Dream maintains the album’s early momentum with another wonderfully layered offering that juxtaposes sadness with great beauty. While Silver Line even carries the faintest whiff of a Cyndi Lauper vibe, especially in its more pop chorus (think Time After Time).
But any notion that Li is venturing too far into more mainstream territory are quickly allayed by the darker lyrics and more brooding sound of Gunshot, which proclaims “I am lonely for your love” before then bursting into life for a belting chorus that is as emphatic as the gunshot it describes.
The themes of heartbreak and loss are recurring throughout but never more painfully laid bare than in the album’s biggest ballad of the lot: the beautifully distraught Never Gonna Love Again, which finds Li stripping things down to something quite intimate and astounding. It is, without doubt, the album’s emotional pinnacle, especially when she delivers the chorus.
And while the remainder of the LP charts similarly melancholy territory, it is never less than utterly gripping and intoxicating.
Make no mistake, Li’s I Never Learn will rate among the best albums you’ll hear this year.
Download picks: I Never Learn, No Rest For The Wicked, Just Like A Dream, Gunshot, Never Gonna Love Again