It’s summer 2008, I am (just) eighteen, and the world has thrown its doors open to me for the very first time. I have been exposed to whole new vitas freedom, worlds of music, people, booze and even more teenage angst than ever before. It’s around this time that Lykke Li drops Youth Novels, a record which would help mould this time period for me, fuel the confusion and tend to the wounds. Six years later and history may be poised to repeat itself; I Never Learn is Li’s third release and so far promises to delve deeper into the rawest of human emotions; heartbreak.
I Never Learn is darker homage to 2011s Wounded Rhymes, a record which heavily featured the wounded pop anthem. Hits like the ludicrously catchy I Follow Rivers have bought Li international acclaim and filled indie dance floors for the last few years. However, the impression upon engaging with the first few leaks off I Never Learn are leaning towards something far moodier, dealing with the human experience in a way which is harder to translate onto a dance floor. I Never Learn opens with a track of the same name, a three-minute impassioned ballad complete with a languid build of violins and classical arrangements. Li’s idiosyncratic vocals are woven tightly together, occasionally overwhelmed by the music to build a lacklustre sentiment to regret and heartbreak. It’s a rousing start, leading into the effortlessly fragile and dejected No Rest For The Wicked, I Never Learn‘s leading single which has leant itself so much acclaim in the past few weeks of its release.
Cracked and distorted vocals feature heavily throughout much of the album, and act to draw you into the splintered emotions of each individual track. It’s bewitching, there is a passion behind each song which could only be expressed by those who have experienced it. Li has revealed little to nothing about the influences behind the record, making it both deeply personal and entirely relatable. It’s poetic and insightful, the way the tone continuously shifts in pace and form; from themes of emotional detachment in Just Like A Dream and Silverline (‘Never let the darkness leave us/If you can’t I’ll be the dreamer’) to the heavy drums of Gunshot, which draw you right back down veracity of the lyrics, combined with sweeping crescendos which elevate the sentiment.
It’s a record that demands your full attention, but also makes you want to travel deeper down the rabbit hole of despair alongside her. Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone is a tender interlude, a plea to a phantom being which feels little more than a raw demo. It’s part of Lykke Li’s charm; It isn’t always perfect, every note isn’t carefully executed and she occasionally sounds on the verge of tears, but that’s what makes it so human. I am no longer eighteen, but the world isn’t any less complicated, however we all know something of heartbreak, of losing something precious, and was desperately wanting it back. ‘Someday we’ll meet again’ close the record on a glimmer of hope, a silver lining through the darkness, and more than anything makes you want to click repeat.
You can stream I Never Learn over at NPR. It is released in full May 6