Album Reviews

Lykke Li – Youth Novels

(Atlantic) UK release date: 9 June 2008

Lykke Li - Youth Novels The Scandinavian invasion continues to gain pace with this highly anticipated offering from Swedish 22-year-old Lykke Li. However, while her voice can bring to mind some of her contemporaries such as Robyn and a soon-to-return Annie, Li’s alternative stylings stand her apart.

Her voice is cute and delicate, and her songs are understated. Sometimes a song like minimalist grower Complaint Department leaves one thinking “Oh, so that’s it then” and other times the lack of indulgence and her avoidance of overblown over-production is welcome. It’s an album that definitely rewards the listener differently depending on their mood at the time. But ultimately the melodies are strong and it’s an exercise in keeping their powers contained.

These well-written pop songs cover a broad spectrum, from the driving one-fingered piano groove of the superb I’m Good, I’m Gone through the emotional punch of Tonight to the upbeat power-pop of Breaking It Up – probably the closest she gets to a Robyn track.

The lo-fi percussion on Dance, Dance, Dance and recent single Little Bit, bring to mind the likes of Architecture In Helsinki, who can themselves charm and irritate in equal measure. Little Bit, in particular, is adorable while the likes of Dance, Dance, Dance and Let It Fall just get on the nerves.

The album closes strongly with a three-pronged attack of introspective power balladry of Everybody But Me, Time Flies and the gorgeous Window Blues, based around a two-note piano riff and using some pretty spooky-sounding backing vocals. A high standard is maintained throughout the possibly over-generous 14 tracks, but it’s not quite enough. Too many of the songs pass by without grabbing you and making you love them. It’s ultimately a bit ineffectual.

It all leaves you wondering where Li’s priorities are. She may be happy to remain on the sidelines, adored by the critics but ignored by the masses, but these songs are strong enough to cross over if she chooses to inject some extra oomph into them. Yet she doesn’t seem much of a Freemasons remix kind of girl. As things stand, a lot of people are going to fall in love with this new young talent, and her ambitious and creative debut. But Lykke Li is likely to stay a cult curiosity for now.

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More on Lykke Li
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Lykke Li – So Sad So Sexy
Lykke Li – I Never Learn
Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
Lykke Li @ Heaven, London