Swedish indie-pop gets more out of the ordinary thanks to Lykke Li and her debut full-length, Youth Novels. The Sweden-through-Portugal & India singer/songwriter Lykke Li Zachrisson started off with the Little Bit EP (QRO review) earlier this year, before graduating to Youth Novels. Working with Scando-all-star Björn Yttling – whose work as a producer (Shout Out Louds, Taken By Trees) is quickly matching, even exceeding, his work as one third of Peter, Bjorn & John – Lykke Li’s music is perhaps more interesting sometimes than it is enjoyable, but is certainly accomplished.
Opener “Melodies & Desires” is a good example, unfortunately, of Lykke Li’s weaker side, as the stripped, distant horns and keys, along with close, intimate, almost spoken-word vocals is more appreciable as ‘art’ than as the kind of music one wants to listen to. Later track “This Trumpet In My Head” feels the same way in its near free-jazz scat-talk ways. Lykke Li experiments a great deal on Youth Novels, and some experiments, like the spoken-word-ish material, or the sad-French lounge singer material on “My Love” and record-finisher “Window Blues”, doesn’t always come off.
However, those examples are the exceptions, not the rule. Lykke Li brings a catchy and interesting disco-rhythm to “I’m Good. I’m Gone” and “Complaint Department”; the former becomes a quiet sing-along to go alongside its disco-dark nature, while the latter starts repetitive, but just gets more and more compelling. “Let It Fall” is some drum-machine-based indie-pop, while “Tonight” goes orchestral and grand in its epic echo-haunt wistfulness.
Lykke Li can also play it more straight up, something she did particularly well with the title track to Little Bit EP. “Little Bit” is included on Youth Novels, along with the other three tracks from the EP, and special mention must be made of the EP’s “Dance. Dance. Dance”, which has seemingly gotten stronger on later listen. But holding up the indie-pop banner the highest has to be single-anthem “Breaking It Up”, whose catchy rhythm is given that extra spice thanks to Lykke Li’s occasional megaphone-distort vocals.
Sweden’s been putting out great alternative music for so long now (QRO’s Swedish Sensations) that it’s no longer the ‘next big thing’ – practically old hat, in some corners. Lykke Li herself even toured the U.S. with fellow countrywomen El Perro Del Mar (QRO album review) & Anna Ternheim (QRO album review) earlier this year (though that may have something to do with America’s appreciation for Swedish ladies…). But with Youth Novels, the Swedish indie-pop sound is still staying fresh.