Wednesday, 4 June 2014

''I Never Learn'' Lykke Li - A Review

Since she debuted on the music scene in 2008, Lykke Li has won a fair amount of praise for her electro tinged indie tunes, most notably for standout single ''I Follow Rivers'' which charted highly around Europe throughout 2011 and 2012. Her most successful release to date was a club friendly offering for sure, but mid way through 2014 Li has left behind the synths and drum machines in favour of her acoustic guitar for I Never Learn, her third record and one which she describes as dealing with "the biggest breakup of her life". Furthermore, Li claims that I Never Learn is the album which she feels will define her artistry and truly establish her place in the industry, a claim which proves to be prophetic throughout these 9 sorrowful ballads.

It's clear from the very beginning that this is very much the product of a badly broken heart as Li opens proceedings with the glooming, atmospheric title track, introducing us to the dark, brooding nature of the album before a wave of strings bring the opener to a skillful finish and ''No Rest For The Wicked'' showcases some single material with its anthemic chorus, albeit it for its same bleak nature which is exposed in cold piano twitches and the powerful vocal of Li, who almost sighs her painfully honest lyrics through the speaker with admissions like ''I let my true love die'' burning the listener's ear. Similiarly, ''Gunshot'' sounds chart friendly through its pounding, relatively up tempo style but it still manages to carry the all consuming, inescapable despair of the album with ease. ''Just Like A Dream'' makes for another first half highlight, reflecting its title with a distant, echoed vocal that reverberates deep within and lends a deep resonance to Li's lyrics due to her tired singing throughout.

Speaking of Li's vocal, it would be impossible not to mention ''Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone'', an intriguing solo ballad that marks the songwriter's best performance of the album without doubt as she supports herself with stunning lyrical accompaniment to a single, tuneless acoustic guitar. Following the album's darkest moment comes its closest brush with a traditional pop song, although ''Never Gonna Love Again'' proves to be an ugly version of a 90's style ballad with its typically black lyrics standing in stark contrast to the uplifting chords it utilizes, coming off like some kind of twisted relative to Savage Garden's ''Truly, Madly, Deeply'' and making it one of the most memorable pieces of the album by creating a weirdly beautiful contradiction through its misleading sound.

Once again, penultimate track ''Heart Of Steel'' would have been another contender for chart success if it weren't for the self depreciating tongue Li uses on herself in an almost celebratory, sinister manner. There's nothing sinister about the final moments of I Never Learn with ''Sleeping Alone'' however, a stunningly insight into Li's struggle to live by herself following her lost lover. ''Alone'' is a perfect end, painfully tugging at heartstrings with its painfully stabbed piano chords and emotional honesty, defining the message that Li communicates so wonderfully throughout the entirety of her 3rd release.

On conclusion, I Never Learn is a beautiful ode to the lonely, fractured, weak personality that can overtake anyone in a post relationship state. With its immersive, mesmerizing mood and acoustic tenderness, I Never Learn invites comparison to another break up masterpiece in Beck's Sea Change, coming off like a younger sister to one of Hansen's magnum opus', high praise indeed for an artist who has yet to reach their thirties. If Lykke Li was looking to establish herself in the industry with I Never Learn, she can consider this album an unbridled success- within a whirlwind 32 mins, Li presents herself as a developing songwriter with maturity beyond her years, creating music with depth, integrity, raw power and emotional impact.


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