Lykke Li - Youth Novels
Review by Jack Foley
YOUTH Novels marks the debut album of 22-year-old Swede Lykke Li and it’s a disarming blend of minimalism and sweetness that should help to propel her firmly into the pop limelight.
Produced by Bjorn Yttling, of Peter Bjorn and John fame (yep, the Young Folks chaps), the album is certainly capable of appealing to fans of Feist, Bjork and Imogen Heap at various stages, expertly blending the ethereal with the radio friendly.
It’s unusual diversity is reflected in the instruments she has assembled to help realise her vision, as there are harpsichords, flutes and theremins throughout the album, all designed to compliment and bring out the best in Lykke Li’s brittle, candy coated vocals. Themes include love, loneliness, frustration and obsession.
Album opener Melodies & Desires is an enchanting starting point – minimalist, beautiful and utterly beguiling. Lykke Li doesn’t so much sing as provide a soothing welcome message, set over the top of an ambient piece of electronica. It immediately puts you into a relaxed state of mind.
Dance Dance Dance then picks up the pace, her cute vocals augmented by some girl-group backing vocals, a head-nodding percussion and traces of saxophone that combine to create an irresistibly toe-tapping concoction.
Recent single I’m Good, I’m Gone then finds the album at its most confident, opening with a chaingang style chant before dropping a piano-thumping backdrop over some swirling strings and melodies. It’s a heady brew, but utterly intoxicating.
The easygoing nature of the album is maintained throughout with the pleasingly funky Let It Fall continuing to showcase her ability to conjure an immediately appetising pop melody and Little Bit combining kookiness with something more dancefloor orientated (possibly as a result of her Royksopp connection).
And yet there are also moments when Lykke Li finds time for some more intimacy – the achingly tender My Love emerging as a song that’s full of yearning (complete with some warm vocal layering), and Breaking It Up a break-up anthem in the making.
Just occasionally, Lykke Li’s vocal approach feels so tender it might break (Time Flies being a prime example), but this only makes her more appealing. There’s a keen sense of innocence and vulnerability that lends the album its heart and soul.
So, while Youth Novels is obviously most accessible when keeping things radio-friendly and Feist-like. But while tracks like I’m Good, I’m Gone and the later Complaint Department will certainly bring it immediate commercial appeal, it’s the slower efforts such as Everybody But Me and Time Flies that really ensure its lasting appeal.
Download picks: Dance, Dance, Dance, I’m Good, I’m Gone, Breaking It Up, Let It Fall, Time Flies, Little Bit, Everybody But Me