Review Summary: Above-standard indie pop release by another Swedish sensation.
I like Lykke Li a lot, but I guess that’s not a surprise. She’s warm, likeable, that strong girly type that I am inadvertently drawn to, and that alone makes Youth Novels
worth recommending (I mean, if you’ve made it this far with me, you’d probably enjoy it). She’s filling that spot vacated by Feist on last year’s The Reminder
, the one previously filled by Let it Die
; Youth Novels
fashionably strings together Lykke’s rougher acoustic indie rock, more soul-styled rhythms, and her beautifully accented Swedish vocals (Youth Novels
is in English). If that sounds safe, that’s because it is.
Safe doesn’t necessarily make Youth Novels
accessible or subdued. Lykke provides a more percussion driven outing, which proves to be both a bold strength and an annoying weakness. As an album, Youth Novels
never becomes unwieldy or, God forbid, boring, and no song swerves out of place because of what amounts to a pretty nifty dance record (exemplified by the pulsating tango vibe in “Dance. Dance. Dance.”). Even the slower tracks, like that of “Hanging High” which as alt. rock dressed as surfer pop ballad proves to be an agile slow dance, work because of their notable percussion. The faster songs are Youth Novels
’s real treats, and they all stop for “Breaking It Up.” With handclaps keeping time, Lykke drives the funky bass line and space-age synth lines, her crazy-ex act a pretty sexy counterpoint to the rest of the album’s wounded, hardened lover.
So while no song on the album is necessarily bad, there’s that feeling that Youth Novels
presents merely one side of Lykke’s sound. That might work as a complete album, but it means that the album starts to mesh not long after the final note has shifted through the speaker. The chants in “My Love” become a part of the ukulele in “Little Bit” become the beats in “I’m Good. I’m Gone,” though taken out of context, each song separate themselves through little touches of nuance. When Lykke really dares to peer out of the box, the results near marvelous: “Melodies & Desires” is one of the album’s gentlest tunes, a bit of Eastern poetry by way of an atmospheric, hazy piano ballad.
Lykke merely recites the lyrics in “Melodies & Desires,” but the product is one of the more effective on the album. I’d be interested to see an EP with a few of these lovely gems, and maybe add a few of the instrumentals like “The Trumpet In My Head.” These songs aren’t necessarily greater than the pop tunes around them, but they are different, more singular and more interesting. Risks are what Lykke needs, though maybe that’s asking too much of her debut. Youth Novels
is quite good, all complaints aside, and it sends her pretty effortlessly into a scene that, with a little more insight and variety, she could rule.