Day 35: Lykke Li – “I Never Learn” Review

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Day 35: Lykke Li – “I Never Learn” (2014)


Genre: Pop / Folk / Electronic

I reviewed exclusively Asian releases the last couple days, but that’s just not my style! So I jumped at the chance of grabbing Lykke Li’s new album. She had a huge, awesome sleeper hit in the form of I Follow Rivers just a while ago, so let’s see if I Never Learn can replicate that quality.

The album opens on the title track, introduced by acoustic guitars and heavily layered vocals. It’s a melancholic experience, more acoustic than her big hit, but ultimately of a similar fashion. I Never Learn is the type of pop song that will fill every hipster’s heart with joy. Highly accessible, yet with a hint of subtlety and an absolutely stunning arrangement. A song that feels simple without actually being simple.

One of the album’s promotional songs, No Rest For The Wicked begins as minimalistic, gentle ballad, but continues developing continuously until it reaches a grand, yet understated climax. It’s the typical Indiepop style we have all grown accustomed to lately taken to perfection, but I feel like the song is very much down to taste rather than being genuinely fantastic. It exemplifies the genre so much that fans of the genre will love it, while anyone that has grown sick of the style may find himself skipping the track because it is just so very much rooted in that one aesthetic.

Airy synths and heavy drums, I’m loving the introduction to Just Like a Dream. The chord progression, unfortunately, strikes me as quite ordinary upon first listen. However, the song is softly and dynamically arranged and still delivers on its promise – with a beautiful chorus melody ready to take you away into the titular dream.

Silver Line is reverb heavy, with a certain classic feeling surrounding its sound all through the end. It’s a song to get your lighters(or, nowadays, your smartphones) out to, very paced, very flowy. The vocal production is a bit too rough for my liking, the vocal performance too nasal, taking from the beauty of the song a tad.

The album takes a turn for the macabre in Gunshot, a song filled with tension and anger…that is, until the chorus just kind of throws it all out, opting to sound oddly happy instead. If it wasn’t for that insane mood whiplash, Gunshot might just have been my favorite on the album, but alas, it reminds me of the annoying habit of hipster pop tracks to explode into a pop anthem at the worst possible moments. It’s still catchy and enjoyable, but fails to realize its full potential.

Lykke Li doesn’t do the throwback sound as well as Lana del Rey. Not even nearly. But she tries in Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone. Even the production tries to emulate an analog 60s sound, with absolutely grating results. The composition itself? I like it, it’s an emotional, simple song. But I just can’t take the production trying to stab my ears every time she sings.

Thankfully, while still impersonating Lana, Never Gonna Love Again goes for a modern, sleek production style instead. But just when I rejoiced, the chorus came around, as yet another generic midtempo pop anthem. I just can’t take these songs anymore! And Never Gonna Love Again isn’t even a particularly well-written one.

Well, this album lost promise quickly! Heart of Steel is the worst offender so far, donning a chorus that would have been considered overdrawn and tacky back when Cher tried it back in the 80s. Well-arranged? Yes. Decent production? I guess. But just so kitschy!

How did this album drop so far in quality so quickly? I don’t know, but the final song, Sleeping Alone, is melodramatic and overly sentimental, with nothing to back it up.

I Never Learn is baffling. It starts off with masterpieces of the genre, only to very, very quickly(the entire length of the album is set at a laughable 33 minutes) take a nosedive in quality and end up with overly sentimental kitsch. The first half of the album I can absolutely recommend. The second half? Stay clear!

Rating: 3/5


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