Lykke Li, I Never Learn: a Cry for Help & a Call for Action!
A Dreamy Album About Life And Such
I Never Learn is a dreamy album about heartbreak that’s effective and simple. It blends Lykke Li’s nasal, bird like coo with acoustic instrumentation, which creates genuine pathos. The album’s first track, I Never Learn, is both her cry for help and her call for action, which is a perfect way to anticipate the rest of the album. “I Never Learn” contains lyrics that start off as a romanticized musings on an ideal lover that isn’t tangible or achievable. Halfway through the song, she stings the listener with disillusionment:
I’m right here I’m your star-crossed lover.
I lie here like a starless lover
I’ll die here as your phantom lover
I never learn.
The final verses of I Never Learn set up the album as the Lykke-Li-messy-break-up-album. In just nine tracks she visits not only the heartbreak of lost love, but the aftermath and loneliness that follows. Her songwriting themes are familiar, but her latest album lacks the pop-song cheeriness of Youth Novels and Wounded Rhymes.
The introspection of the album’s first track continues throughout the album. By the second track – No Rest For The Wicked (the album’s highlight) – the intensity increases in power. The piano’s circular, nursery rhyme sound heightens the song’s overwhelming sense of longing. Li coos her way through the lyrics with an intense level of fortitude and raw emotion, evoking Nancy Sinatra’s version of My Baby Shot Me Down.
Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone is the album’s highlight, hands-down. It combines soft, subtle guitar accompaniment with Li’s singing voice, at its most emotive. Li sings Love Me Not Made Of Stone like she’s pleading on the verge of tears, and she could pull the heartstrings of Resident Evil’s Alice.
The most problematic tracks are Heart Of Steel, Just Like a Dream,and Silver Lining. Although they are the album’s only upbeat songs, the melodies are too predictable and comfortable. Despite that, the songwriting is insightful overall. The good thing about getting through the predictability of Silver Lining is it leads to Gunshot, a track with a rhythm that’s full of life and functions like a heartbeat. It starts off quiet, with drums whispering in the background, as Li quietly and vulnerably sings about the sadness of heartbreak. At mid-point in the song there’s a rough build into an aggressive pounding beat created by rapidly moving drums and piano low notes, and matching Li’s voice at its most ferocious and dominating. The music doesn’t build smoothly; it moves back and forth unpredictably between a silent whisper and an all-out assault. By the end of the song Li’s words increase in impact, harnessing the bold crescendo of her voice and the drum’s rapidly building heartbeat.
Never Going To Love Again contains the same level of musical fortitude as Gunshot. The instrumentation relies heavily on the tambourine, the drum kit’s steady, rhythmic click pattern, and a piano that chimes the same two high notes. The rhythmic simplicity of this song emphasizes both the strength of Li’s songwriting and the emotive, immense power of Lykke Li’s singing voice. It’s an upbeat tune focusing on the acceptance stage of losing a loved one, that’s a strange addition to the album’s consistent darkness. The difference between this song and the rest of the album is that she barks the lyrics throughout the song’s gradual crescendo.
The album’s best track is the album’s final track, Sleeping Alone. It combines Li’s ability to sing as if on the verge of tears, the sound that made Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone an album highlight, with the simplistic, but powerful rhythmic build of Never Going To Love Again. The song’s greatest strength is its overwhelming level of raw intimacy. A whispery series of piano chords, the slow and steady click of a tambourine, a resting heartbeat drum sound, and a trippy, but soft electric guitar solo help capture the thoughtful rawness of Lykke Li’s song about losing the person you love and learning to live alone without them.
I Never Learn is a dense album, that captures something very few pop albums manage to master – the complex, universal emotions associated with heartbreak that extend beyond straightforward sadness. I Never Learn is proof that Lykke Li isn’t just a catchy tune. She produced songs that are an intimate, genuine and insightful portrait of heartbreak and desire. Despite the predictable nature of Silver Lining, Just Like A Dream, and Heart Of Steel, Li’s I Never Learn is nine tracks of music that provides the listener with insight and comfort, through the simplicity of the album’s instrumentation and production, and Li’s raw songwriting. I Never Learn is an admirably fearless, censor-less, musical portrait of Li’s personal experiences.