“I Never Learn” by Lykke Li

May 11. 2014 | By Sean Morris

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Lykke Li
I Never Learn
[LL Recordings]

I Never Learn is Lykke Li’s most daring attempt to rescue pop artistry from strip club anthem purgatory to date. On the title track, the Swede’s soprano quivers over a foreboding gathering of guitars before being overtaken by a tempestuous string section. Ominous production has always been key in Li’s partnership with Bjorn Yttling, but it’s a tremendous leap forward for Greg Kurstin, who usually chooses brighter, safer collaborators (Lily Allen, The Bird and the Bee).

Rousing, echoey percussion crescendos wonderfully convey the highs of feeling worthless. “There’s no hope for the weary/if you let them lose without a fight,” Li trills over tinkly piano keys on “No Rest for the Wicked.” Though her lyrics are consumed with loss and longing, Li’s vocals have never sounded more confident. Turning “cracked” into a two syllable word on “Gunshot” drives home the pain. “Silverline” is the album’s sunniest moment, with its Beach House-y textures and a passionate promise: “I will save you every time.” The rest of this nine song, thirty-three minute gut punch is devoted to the dejected end of the romantic spectrum, from break up sex (“Just Like A Dream”) to “Sleeping Alone.” The melodrama reaches a fever pitch on “Never Gonna Love Again,” a massive ballad destined to be sung in unison by stadiums full of lighter-wavers. In just six years, Lykke Li has gone from precious princess to Queen of Misery. We can’t wait to see where she goes next.

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