If you’re looking for the perfect post-break-up-stage-of-reflection soundtrack, I nominate Lykke Li’s most recent release, I Never Learn. If you’ve been acquainted with the Swedish songstress’ previous records, I can understand your raised eyebrow and possible derisive facial expression as you read this. Her earlier hits, like ‘Little Bit’ and ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’, were more ebullient and Coachella-friendly, not to mention that I first heard of this woman from an episode of Gossip Girl. But like the title of the album kindly denotes, I Never Learn is much darker as things get personal.
The album, released earlier this month, is said to be inspired by a break-up so big, it drove Li from her home in Sweden to Los Angeles, where she began writing the album that covers a great love lost, from beginning to end. And while a tad overwhelming at first, as you make your way through the tracks, I Never Learn has a way of conveying the feeling of losing a love so honest and real that you can physically feel the pain in her production, lyricism and performance. The album manages to delicately captivate and sever you in a way Adele never could.
Most of the songs lack the pulsing drum machines and buoyant rhythms that were ever-present in Li’s previous albums. Upbeat and dreamy beats have been replaced with minor chords and jovial child-like vocals with power ballads that capture Li literally breaking down in the booth. With the production style more minimal, most songs are performed with a range of string instruments. Pianos, guitars and very few synths are seemingly sufficient to get her message of heartbreak across.
Standout tracks include ‘Gunshot’, a lyrically stimulating track that offers what is probably one of the most heartfelt yet darkest apologies you’ll ever hear. ‘Never Gonna Love Again’ is one of those ’80s type power ballads you just have to put on repeat and belt out a few times in order to speed up the healing process.
‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone’ is a song as stripped down as it gets, with nothing but Li’s vocals and acoustic guitar accompaniment. Spoiler Alert: It’s also that track she literally breaks down in that I mentioned earlier.
‘Sleeping Alone’ ends the album on a somber yet hopeful note, as Li begs the question, “When do you get used to / Sleeping alone.”
Not available on the album is a remix of track two, ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ that features A$AP Rocky. Let’s just say that should definitely be placed as a bonus track.
I Never Learn is a big one. You need to be mentally prepared for it. But it the end, it’s worth it.
Lykke Li’s I Never Learn is currently available on iTunes.
Check out her website for current updates and touring info!