Lykke Li ‘I Never Learn’ – Review

5 Jun

‘I Never Learn’ is the third and final part in a trilogy that chronicles Lykke Li’s rather tragic love life. Where her debut ‘Youth Novels’ was enthusiastic and relatively upbeat in the face of rejection, ‘I Never Learn’ is resigned and downcast. Where her second album ‘Wounded Rhymes’ was melodramatic and cathartic, ‘I Never Learn’ is darkly dramatic and doomed. There is little hope offered at the record’s end, and few signs of ‘it’ll be alright some day.’ ‘I Never Learn’ makes its bold claim with its title – Lykke Li accepts her heartbroken fate as a stone cold fact and she’s not going to change.

Lykke Li is the femme female who will walk all over you, break your heart and dump it in the river. She admits as much in ‘No Rest For the Wicked’ when she confesses ‘I let my good one down.’ On ‘Gunshot’ she claims to be a ‘siren, I am ivy’ and has a ‘devil’s hand across my heart.’ Unlike Chris Martin on last week’s ‘Ghost Stores’, Lykke Li plays the predator rather than the victim. Fittingly then, unlike the sad restraint of ‘Ghost Stories’, ‘I Never Learn’ is a powerful, dramatic and exceedingly confident break up album. Lykee Li has just about everyone eating out of her fine and delicate hands.

Li’s voice is naturally soft and brittle; it suits songs like ‘Gunshot’ and her earlier hit ‘Little Bit’ and is less suited to the more bombastic numbers on the album. On ‘Never Gonna Love Again’, a hulking big weepie that dwarfs every other song on here, she sounds nasal and whinny – her mumbled words kind of lose their impact. Sometimes her voice is a thing of beauty but only when it’s dressed in loosely fitting clothes. It sounds better on the sparse and beautiful ‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone’ or the more intimate ‘Sleep Alone’.

Nine songs may be somewhat slight, especially when a couple of these tracks misfire, but you aren’t really left asking for much more. This a thematic piece of work with nice cohesion; it rises, falls and swells in just the right places. It’s not ground-breaking or revelatory but it does have a strong identity of its own. Lykke Li’s fate as a perpetually heartbroken femme fatale may be unfortunate for her but if she keeps knocking out albums as strong as this the listener will be the real victor.

7.5/10

 

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