There are a lot of songs about the unfathomable pain of heartbreak out there. There are a lot that are filled with resent for the other person. There are a lot that begs for the other person back. Then there is a whole album that painstakingly goes through each of these emotions to reach a catharsis at the end even if the listening audience is not ready yet; and that album is I Never Learn by Lykke Li.
Lykke Li is known for her upbeat, alternative but simplistic pop songs (“I Follow Rivers”…what a track!) however, if you’re looking for that same vibe from this latest release you definitely won’t find it. What you will find though is that Li has held onto her harmonic choirs, her lifting synths, her pop drumbeats and her building yet humble piano lines that we also know her for.
Moving from track to track, I Never Learn produces songs that are filled with regret and sadness. In paying attention to the lyrics, one can only imagine that Lykke Li broke-up with someone that she loved dearly, by her own accord, and now regrets it. But she’s not looking to get back with this dude; she’s just looking for forgiveness within herself. This can be seen on the track “No Rest For The Wicked” where she sings about self-induced loneliness.
“Gunshot” brings the pace of the album up a little bit with a sound much like an 80s pop ballad however due to the lyrical content (i.e. “And the shot goes through my head and back, gun shot I can’t take it back”), no amount of increase in the tempo will allow us to forget about the pain that Lykke Li has put herself through.
A stand-out on the album, “Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone” seems like a sequel to her song “I Know Places” (from her previous album Wounded Rhymes, 2011) in that it features the same stripped back, acoustic guitar with echoing vocals and the same chord progression (only in a different key). It feels like Lykke Li has taken us to her special place and now is walking back, alone, head hung low, shamed, vulnerable and filled with sorrow.
Li is at her rawest with this song and lets her voice break as she tries to release the lyrics and tone from a throat that is holding back tears.
As we reach the end, we see that although broken, Lykke Li has used this album as a catharsis through tracks like “Heart of Steel” and “Sleeping Alone”. We are reminded that no matter how surreal successful musicians and their lifestyles may seem to us, they are human all the same.
Although, ok I’ll say it…depressing, I Never Learn captures heartbreak in its bluest form and is definitely an album that I recommend you don’t listen to on a long drive home from an awesome weekend in Ballarat with your mates because you’ll all start crying and struggle to deal with the awkward silence of one another.
Hometown: Ystad, Skåne, Sweden
Latest Album: I Never Learn, released 2 May, 2014
Sounds like: Grimes, Dillon, Oh Land
Say what? Lykke Li grew up all over the world as her family moved frequently from countries like Portugal, Nepal, Morrocco, and India.
Paws and pineapples, Cat