Release Date: Aug 19, 2008
Record label: LL Recordings
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
These and the similarly skeletal arrangements that make up much of the album are deployed inventively enough that they rarely feel incomplete, but they're effective mainly because they keep the focus squarely on Lykke Li's understated yet captivating vocals. It's a daringly direct approach that emphasizes Li's marked emotionality (which runs the range from tenderness to bitterness), and allows songs to succeed -- or, rarely, flounder -- on their merits. When the songwriting ideas are strong (the aforementioned pair, the sparsely funky "Let It Fall" and especially the naggingly effective "Little Bit"), stripped-down arrangements and repetitive simplicity do nothing to stem their appeal, while "Hanging High" mostly plods and even the relative fullness of "My Love," with its strings and weirdly bleating group vocal, can't do much to make up for its dud chorus.
Turning insecurities into bold pop songsBefore working as a professional dancer on Swedish television and recording her debut album, 22-year-old Stockholm native Lykke Li traveled the world with her artist parents. It all comes through on the determinedly diverse Youth Novels, which marries inventive dance rhythms to confessional songwriting. Already, her musical approach and idiosyncratic stage presence have earned Li comparisons to Madonna, Björk and fellow Swede Robyn, which are apt, if limiting.
As if her name wasn’t an obvious clue, Lykke Li is Scandanavian through and through. Her debut could be mistaken for a covers album where Stina Nordenstam and Hanne Hukkelberg sink their teeth into songs by bubblegum favorites Robyn and Annie, with Peter Bjorn And John as the backing band. Björn Yttling, in fact, produced and co-wrote Youth Novels, bringing his love of reverb-heavy pop classicism, populated by slightly off-kilter juxtapositions of glockenspiel, pianos, lo-fi synths, primitive drum machines and rich backing vocals.
Lykke Li left South by Southwest 08 in a trail of "awww." The 22-year-old Swedish singer, already a hit in her homeland, deserves a closer reading on debut LP Youth Novels. It opens with "Melodies & Desires," glacial synth chiming as she instructs, "You'll be the rhythm, and I'll be the beat," hair swinging in slo-mo. Producer Björn Yttling's (Peter Bjorn & John) minimal pop arrangements give Li room to purr on the provocative single "Little Bit" and lend a self-possessed strut to "Dance, Dance, Dance," sax solos and piano only accents.