Lykke Li: Youth Novels

Sweden has produced it’s fair share of musicians known world wide, across a wide array of genres. Metal fans will know that In Flames, Candlemass, and Opeth are among the genre’s most respected acts; Recently, The Hives became a famous international rock/pop band, preceeded by the likes of The Cardigans and Roxette. Many popular bands then, with a wide variety of sounds, and that’s without even mentioning Abba. If anything can describe Lykke Li’s debut, it is diversity- of sounds, of genres, of emotions. This does not work for the better at times, and although as the singer admits herself, that her life is a mish mash of moving and changing, the listener may wish she would stick to one genre and work at it- because all these pieces, this time, do not make a whole. Experimentation is wonderful, but perhaps Lykke should experiment with different sounds over the course of different albums, not squeeze it all into one.

That said, it is clear that most people will see this as a pop/dance album. The problem here is that there is no stand out dance track a la Robyn, which will blast through clubs this summer. On top of that, the melodies in her more pop sounding tracks are not memorable enough to dent the UK charts. The best songs here are the more tender moments, where the honesty shown in every song is pushed to the forefront. These songs have sparse and soft melodies, plenty of pianos, strings, and unintrusive beats. Lykke’s voice on these songs is another strong point, carrying the emotion wonderfully. At times though she can let her voice become too child-like, edging awfully near to ‘i’m so helpless and weak and rich, please save me’ territory. On the more upbeat songs, another annoying vocal trait can be found- the clipping of ‘t’ sounds at the end of words as if she is trying to sound like Lily Allen/Kooks/Libertines/any other desperately irratating ‘act’. Luckily, this does not appear often.

The album starts out promisingly enough, with a swirling growing melody with ‘Melodies And Desires’, which almost sounds like it could burst into an epic. For better or worse though, this is restrained, and the song fades out. The lyrics in the opening track can be echoed throughout the rest of the album. A sadness, a wish to feel part of something or someone, being in or out of control, love, dance, music, along with the ever so subtle hint of irony. ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ has as good a chance as any to be her big hit, her voice acting as the lead instrument for the first half of the song, singing about a love of dance which gives freedom. I’m Good, I’m Gone sees Lykke Li doing her best sexy/sultry routine, with good results and a catchy enough chorus. Little Bit is a touching song, sung with yearning, although again with other tracks the repetition of lyrics can become annoying. Hanging High sounds at times Oriental and Caribbean, while Compalint Department sounds like it should be played on a catwalk. Times Flies and Everybody But Me are other tender higlight, while This Trumpet In My Head may be her best, and most understated track. Dusky vocals, harsh and witty lyrics, and with a definite Good, The Bad, And The Ugly feel to it.

So after all the hype of yet another myspace artist, we are left with an album which will no doubt do well in the charts this year, but for the same reasons why other acts do so mysteriosly well in the charts- Lykke Li has the sort of sound that Top 40 listeners will love- it’s harmless, doesn’t say a lot, and will be forgotten quickly. However, unlike the countless other talentless indie guitar bands, pop laydees, R’n’B nobodies, and Brit-School dumb wanabees, Lykke Li has potential. She has made this album herself, she has a good range of tastes, strong sense of humour, and hopefully in years to come we will see her talent mature. Unquestionably, there is something good here. Whether she is happy to pander to Radio Uno listeners, or wishes to progress as a genuinely forceful artist remains to be seen. Let’s hope she chooses the latter; the world needs more intelligent pop.

Youth Novels

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