Release Date: May 6, 2014
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Pop, Swedish Pop/Rock
Lykke Li has never been a typical pop star, but with her third album, it seems clear that being one isn't something the Swedish singer wants, anyway. I Never Learn opens with its title track, an organized flurry of strings and guitar that sets the tone for an introspective and rather dark record. Li seems to retreat inside herself on many of the tracks, including the stripped-down "Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone" and the meditative echoes of "Sleeping Alone," but the record is still marked by accessible melodies, and the deep drum beats and haunting Lykke Li wail — made famous on her first two albums, 2008's Youth Novels and 2011's Wounded Rhymes — are still there underneath.
Never has an album been more appropriately titled. Over the course of two records, Lykke Li has explored matters of the heart, or more specifically, matters of the broken heart. And, for her third album, there was never any danger it would carry a subtitle of “Screw Men, I’m Going Rock Climbing For A Week” or “I Think I’d Better Concentrate On Just Being Me For A While”.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. There are few things that'll get people giddy enough to do a little wee right where they're sat, but the slightest titillating scrap of hearsay that Lykke Li is doing something new is definitely one of those things. The Swedish alt. pop contessa first dangled the carrot at the beginning of March with 'Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone', a distinctly lo-fi and threadbare metamorphosis.
There’s a striking moment on I Never Learn, the third album from Swedish songwriter Lykke Li, that comes at the conclusion of the opening number, its title track. An avalanche of strings and acoustic strums have just about buried the listener when the song stops quite suddenly, and it seems right to think, Did that song have any vocals at all? It did. It opened with a solid couple minutes of buildup to that instrumental blanket of icy permanence.
Where Natasha Khan was the hipster Wood Nymph, Lykke Li has always played the Downcast Damsel, howling out achingly from the castle keep. And third album I Never Learn (completing, we are told, a trilogy of sorts) is once again all august pronouncements of loneliness echoing across endless stretches of icy emotional desolation. If you seek happiness, you are vigorously urged to look elsewhere.
If you’re unsure of why Lykke Li named her third album I Never Learn, the last four songs leave nothing to the imagination: “Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone”, “Never Gonna Love Again”, “Heart of Steel”, “Sleeping Alone”. The titles alone feel like disclaimers—are you willing to live life on these terms? It's worth noting, then, that Lykke Li moved over 5,400 miles from her native Sweden to Los Angeles at the age of 28 after the most painful breakup of her life. It hardly matters that almost none of us will experience anything like that; what is important is that many of us have endured the kind of heartbreak that made it feel like your old self is halfway across the planet.
There has always been something captivating about Swedish singer/songwriter Lykke Li. From the minimalist mix of icy electronics and playful indie pop of her 2008 debut Youth Novels to the weightier, percussive anthems on 2011's Wounded Rhymes, she has flexed her considerable creative muscle but never quite managed to dial in on a sound that would define her. She manages a tunefulness that aspires to great pop heights, yet retains the wintry austerity of her Nordic roots.
‘I Never Learn’ has been billed as the final entry in a trilogy following Lykke Li’s debut ‘Youth Novels’ and follow-up, ‘Wounded Rhymes’. It’s been an interesting journey to this, an intense and autobiographical look at being ‘a woman in your 20s’. It’s been an absorbing listen and, just like all the best trilogies, this final instalment is big, bold and heart-wrenching.
It’s probably known by now what fueled Swedish songstress Lykke Li on her latest full-length, I Never Learn, the final installment in what she considers a trilogy of albums. But even if you hadn’t heard about Li’s tumultuous breakup through interviews, it would take you precisely 30 seconds into the opening title track to figure it out. The song’s gloomy, somewhat familiar-sounding minor chords might tell you a little something, too, but Li’s imagery of fallen stars, blue moons and tears that melt ice are what set the stage for this taut, intense collection of songs.
By the sound of it, Lykke Li has plenty of people to thank for her recent success--most of them being the array of lovers she sings about in I Never Learn. While her sophomore effort, Wounded Rhymes, reveled in lustful passions shaded grey and black, Li’s latest record is an unabashed portrait of a woman in the throes of heartbreak. What makes this so compelling, however, is the subtle eagerness she injects into every lyric and vocal, as though the best and only time to sing was soon after a breakup.
Lykke Li has explained that she conceived of her new album I Never Learn as the final installment in a trilogy of works. Going along with that interpretation, Li’s catalog to date can be taken as a coming-of-age story chronicling how the Swedish could-be pop star has changed and developed both as a person and as an artist since she made a splash with her precocious 2008 debut Youth Novels. Along those lines, I Never Learn can feel like the endpoint Li was aiming for as she nears the end of her 20s, as she’s come up with a more mature album in theme and sound when compared to the playfulness and whimsy that made Youth Novels and 2011’s Wounded Rhymes stand out.
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.
Looking like Vito Corleone's exhausted, widowed mother on the cover of her newest release, I Never Learn, Lykke Li has further cloaked herself in the mournful hues she donned on Wounded Rhymes, only now her once-raw emotion has faded into something far more tired and dusty. Still, the Swedish singer-songwriter's third album is less about any particular emotional state than where she's arrived artistically. Steeped in a shadowy, Southern-gothic pastiche lifted straight from Johnny Cash's American series, I Never Learn finds Li completely turning her back on the glossy pop she was edging toward on previous albums.
If Lykke Li is to be believed, then I Never Learn is 'the final instalment in a conceptual trilogy'. The notion of viewing her previous LPs as the start of a triptych might initially feel contrived, but there's a method to it: her shifting career making even greater sense when seen as emotional cartography, mapping the highs and lows of a women living through her twenties. Youth Novels, from 2008, explored the darker side of nascent desire through a deceptively bright lens, while 2011's Wounded Rhymes vastly expanded upon similar themes; decanting all the pent up darkness into lovelorn Sturm und Drang.
Lykke Li's music has always felt a degree removed, her dreamy melodies sung through a fog. The Swedish singer-songwriter's last album, 2011's Wounded Rhymes, was her catchiest yet. This follow-up confronts a more deliberate truth, with melancholy songs full of heartbreak, disillusion and redemption. Some of them are almost anthems – "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone" delivers gloriously raw emotion.
So, where were we at with Lykke Li? The Swede’s second album, 2011’s ‘Wounded Rhymes’, was assembled under an angry cloud of heartbreak. Sure, it was troubled, but it was defiant (‘Get Some’) and dramatic (‘Sadness Is A Blessing’). Most of all it was pain-stricken (‘Unrequited Love’). Stylistically and lyrically, she’d consciously uncoupled from the signature coochy-coo vocals, puppy-eyed cuteness and electronic quirks of her debut ‘Youth Novels’ – and grown.Unsurprisingly for an album called ‘I Never Learn’, this third album sees Lykke revisiting some of the themes covered on ‘Wounded Rhymes’.
Does pop need any new songs about heartbreak? Probably not. That doesn't stop 745,932* (*statistic unverified) new ones being unleashed every week or so. The loss of love, its dearth and its inconstancy have been examined from every possible angle by artists including (but hardly limited to) Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, Joy Division and Lykke Li.
The third album from Lykke Li is meant to be the one that turns her from Swedish cult artist to international pop star – big adverts, aggressive promotional campaign and all – despite her protestations that she's really a singer-songwriter. It might succeed, but it'll be a triumph based on singles rather than an undeniable album. I Never Learn works best in the smallest doses, despite its brevity, because it's as one-paced as a fading lower-division central defender, and that pace is sluggish.
Beware the third album, otherwise known as the Decider. Among would-be career artists, it's the make-or-break release that separates adult from child, evolving creator from one-cycle wonder, the luckily timed from experienced, focused musical connector. Prince's "Dirty Mind," Jay Z's "Vol. 2 … Hard Knock Life," Madonna's "True Blue," Kanye West's "Graduation" — each arrived to a public wondering on an artistic direction after assured introductions.
Is it better to have loved and been shot in the head, or to have never loved at all? This is the grim scenario we're confronted with on 'Gunshot', one of several over-the-top relationship eulogies that haunt Lykke Li's third album. Those who had their hearts set on another batch of coy, cloudy electro-pop from the Swedish singer/songwriter might consider the song a bummer, but for the rest of us, it and the other eight tracks that comprise I Never Learn make for a stirring, pristinely rendered expression of heartache. The artist isn't interested in poetry here.
On a superficial level, Lykke Li’s third studio effort, I Never Learn is a sad collection of the usual post break-up songs we’ve all heard before. The Swedish songstress seems to ride on the same downtempo throughout—no I Follow Rivers or Get Some correlates here. But despite that tact, every track on this album is relatable and takes us on an emotional journey through the steps of a breakup, which in Li’s interpretation seems to be frustration, pain and ultimately loneliness.A strong start, the title track gives us insight into the lush style she’s decided on for this album.
Over the last few years Lykke Li has been quite adamantly denying she is a pop artist. It now seems like an odd declaration, as her third record clearly moves her into pop territory with these short, tuneful, and alluring songs about emotional anguish. On her two previous records Li struggled with contradictory feelings of identity and desire, but here she just sounds forlorn about failing at love.
Throughout its 45-year recording career, Santana — led by the great Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana — has been synonymous with Latin rock. Yet “Corazón” is the first Santana album with nearly all of its lyrics in Spanish. Gathering much of the album’s material from outside the ….
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN < @scatlint > “Don’t blow your pants before I go down” were the first words we heard from Lykke Li’s sophomore album, 2011’s Wounded Rhymes. They kicked off “Get Some,” a furious tempest of a pop song that’s about 50% percussion, 40% attitude, and 10% melody, and which served to emphatically declare Li’s artistic about-face. No more of the homespun, wistful little electropop tunes she and producer Bjorn Yttling (of Peter Bjorn & John fame) served up on 2008’s Youth Novels! So “Get Some” declared.