The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC - JIM CAR­ROLL

Never Learn

Sad songs say so much. Sad­ness – the yearn­ing, the en­nui, the melan­choly, the wist­ful­ness – comes in the bluest shades imag­in­able on Lykke Li’s new record. There were el­e­ments of this colour scheme on pre­vi­ous al­bums Youth Nov­els and Wounded Rhymes, but it came dis­guised by Li’s play­ful waspish­ness. Af­ter all, the last place you think about the blues is un­der a spin­ning glit­ter­ball at peak pop-time.

On I Never Learn, though, it’s blue all the way, an al­bum of bruised, frag­ile heart­break­ers. Ev­ery song is slow-burn­ing, muted, broody, sub­tle – those mi­nor-key dra­mas pulled from the pages and set-pieces of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. I never learn? Even the damn ti­tle hints at what’s to come.

You could start this map­ping of Li’s diary notes with No Rest for the Wicked, which comes with a hefty help­ing of haunted, chilled at­mo­spher­ics. The ti­tle track is sim­i­larly im­bued, with Li’s vo­cals aug­ment­ing and em­pha­sis­ing the quiet tor­ment at the heart of the mat­ter.

I Never Learn isn’t all one-note mu­si­cal in­tro­spec­tion. Both Gun­shot and Love Me Live I’m Not Made of Stone are rel­a­tively up­hol­stered by their sweeps of sounds, while the gospel choir em­bel­lish­ing the cho­rus on Heart of Steel add waves of pathos to the mood.

What Lykke Li has cre­ated on I Never Learn is a world where the stripped-back, min­i­mal aes­thetic al­lows her to push the lyrics frontstage. That said lyrics paint an un­set­tling, oc­ca­sion­ally macabre, of­ten gloomy pic­ture of Li’s world is her choice. A stri­dent, brave, hugely com­pelling af­fair. Down­load: Heart of Steel, Gun­shot, I Never Learn


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