3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Love is a symphony,
This review is from: Youth Novels (Audio CD)
For the record, Lykke Li has one of the most punnish stage names in all of the pop world.
Fortunately the obvious jokes are no reflection on the talents of this fledgling Swedish singer (real name: Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson), her high soft voice, and her unique brand of pop music. And her full-length debut "Youth Novels" is an exquisite little confection -- wistful, robustly elfin songs set to sweetly wintry electro-folkpop.
It opens with a gentle stream of piano and plaintive strings, as Lykke Li quietly speaks. "Follow these instructions/Do exactly as I do... Love is the harmony/Desire is the key/Love is a symphony/Now play it with me..."
Things pick up with the more "Dance Dance Dance," an adorable little song about expressing your feelings via dancing, and the hard-edged/twinkly piano of "I'm Good I'm Gone" ("Well, say you're not 'cause when I'm gone/You'll be callin' but I won't be at the phone!"). But things start relaxing with the jazzier pop melody of "Let It Fall."
From there, Lykke Li explores some more mellow electro-folkpop, with haunting folk songs tinged with synth, sweetly romantic (and slightly sexy) guitar pop, exquisitely wistful ballads, dark electropop, and a weird experimental number where she spends a long time muttering "can't get that trumpet outta my head!" The album ends on a rather dark note with the stomping ballad "Window Blues ("Don't go all soft on me/don't come across for me/don't lose your selfish ways over me...."
If I had to compare Lykke Li to somebody, I'd say she sounds like Stina Nordenstam, or a more childlike, less innocent El Perro Del Mar. But those are just stylistic similarities, because her pretty pop has a very distinct sound even in her first album. And "Youth Novels" has a feeling of bittersweet, pretty intimacy -- it's sitting with a friend whose heart has just started to heal, and watching the snowflakes flutter down outside the window.
And her music is also very pretty -- we've got a bit of jazz, a bit of indie pop, and a veil of pale, soft electronica laid over it all like a blanket. She even does some experimentation in such songs as "Dance Dance Dance," which is the most mellow, downtempo dance song I've ever heard -- and most of it is just drums and a tapped bell.
The rest of the time, you can hear a delicate web of solid instrumentation -- half-smothered saxophone, a folky acoustic guitar, a xylophone, gentle tinkly piano melodies, kettle drums, and stretches of gentle plaintive strings. Oh yes, and some moments of buzzy dark synthpop, like in the gloriously dark "Complaint Department," and a swirling Spanish guitar that winds through one song.
And then there's the vocals. This girl has a voice of spun glass and sunlit icicles, and regardless of what she sings she sounds incredibly sweet and fragile. Despite some awkward moments ("For you I keep my legs apart" -- what?), her lyrics are also quite sweet -- the absence of love is painful, while its presence brings you shyness, joy and defensiveness. Just look at the one about communicating love through dance.
If you just skimmed through "Youth Novel," you'd think that Lykke Li's debut album was just a stretch of electropop with some folk overtones. But it's something far prettier and more alluring.