ALBUM REVIEW: Lykke Li ‘I Never Learn’

The third part of a trilogy can often be the trickiest to produce. It’s the lasting memory, the final impression of everything that has come before it and the full stop to a three-part story. Sultry Swedish songstress Lykke Li announced that ‘I Never Learn’ will act as the final part of a trilogy, made up of her light, off-pop debut ‘Youth Novels’ and follow-up ‘Wounded Rhymes’; with its deeper rhythms and richer sound and where upbeat moments were still present (singles ‘Get Some’ and ‘Youth Knows No Pain’.) For Part 3, melancholy and heartbreak are presented over 9-tracks which, while not an instantly inviting concept, is successfully presented through an honest voice, an open heart and an obvious knack for making it all sound stunning.

Given the idea of the trilogy, it’s apt that the cinematic title-track should open the collection. Built on stark acoustic strums and sweeping streams, Lykke Li’s echoed vocals transform the song into something rich; its finished effect sounding not unlike a Fleetwood Mac outtake. The two acts have crossed paths before, with Lykke contributing a version of ‘Silver Springs’ to a recent cover album, from which the art of extracting the art from heartbreak was clearly perfected. The similarly titled ‘Silver Line’ offers something similar to her cover version during one of the album’s few moments of optimism, also heard on ‘Gun Shot’ – which borrows an arrangement similar in style to her early work with a bulletproof attitude – and the equally fearless ‘Heart Of Steel’ – where a choir assists in providing hints of euphoria .

An icy piano introduction to ‘No Rest For The Wicked’ only heightens the thunder of the chorus (while a version featuring A$AP Rocky takes it even further), highlighting the wall-of-sound production Li favours and allowing the heartbreak to pour, while the tribal beat of ‘Just Like A Dream’ doesn’t quite have the rhythm of ‘Get Some’ or ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’, but does offer a chance to sway a little more enthusiastically. Although ‘Never Gonna Love Again’ and ‘Sleeping Alone’ do border on a broken record state of mind, the stripped back ‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone’ offers her most strained and honest moments, with the cracks in her voice during the line “even though it hurts, baby” and otherwise unheard tones providing one of the most heart wrenching musical moments in recent history.

Of course, the hope is for a happily ever after to open the next part of Lykke Li’s story, but ‘I Never Learn’ provides pain in such sublime style that there’s an equal, guilty yearning for more of this too.


Dan Bull

Dan Bull

Reviews Editor
London. Likes: Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, Prince Charles Cinema, Duran Duran Dislikes: Soreen, All-hits setlists, "I liked them before everyone else..."