Albums of 2014 #9 - Lykke Li - I Never Learn

Lykke Li
I Never Learn
Atlantic Records. Released May 5th.

No one does heartache quite like Lykke Li, 2012's Wounded Rhymes was a stunning record of lament and lost love, seemingly Lykke's fortune has changed little over the past two years with her third record I Never Learn, an equally burned and mournful affair, again however, the results bedazzle.

The smoldering title track lets you into Lykke's misty world of hurt and fresh wounds again, reverb-cloaked vocals and confessional, direct songwriting lets the listener immediately know the state of play before launching into a luxurious string led beauty. As ambitious as we've heard from Lykke Li, it's also one of my favourite album openers of the year.

"No Rest For The Wicked" builds with heartache and slow-burn beauty as spacious,cavernous drums take centre stage ahead of the track's piano chords, emitting melancholy and emotion as the lyrics "Lonely I, I'm so alone now" ring deep and similarly "Just Like A Dream" continues the wonderful melody lines and mystical romanticised ballads, I hope you've got tissues.

"Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone"could be a sister song to "I Know Places", a beautifully taut piano led confessional ballad with languid, haunting acoustic echoes the sole accompaniment for Lykke's devastating delivery, you can tangibly feel her emotion throughout. "Gunshot" takes all the pain and turns on them with a moment of big, bold anger building to to dramatic power-ballad choruses and the repeated cries of "never get you back".

It's all an h'ors derve for "Never Gonna Love Again" though, the albums true highlight and torchlight moment, an 80's power pop moment brimmed with nostalgia and huge choruses, it's the most accessible track on the record and one that begs to be heard over and over again.

Lykke Li has stated I Never Learn has finished a trilogy of albums, I hope that doesn't mean it's the last we hear of her as a musician, for once again, she has highlighted just what a master she is of melody and emotion. 

The Best Songs of 2014 So Far (Part Two)

10. Lazy Day - With My Mind

"With My Mind" is most fully realised track that Tilly has released thus far under her Lazy Day pseudonym. Earlier tracks shared on her Soundcloud suited the band name (currently just Tilly, with hopefully a live band and dates to follow) perfectly, full of plaintive daydreams and spacious, echoed vocals. "With My Mind" takes that further with a brooding intensity and a hypnotic guitar riff that will embed itself in your brain, couple it with Tilly's magnetic voice, her sumptuous, soothing tones wrap around you and soon you're lost deep within.

9. Rae Morris - Skin

Rae returns to make 2014 her own with a new track "Skin", easily her finest to date and as devastating a moment as the year has offered us to date. "Skin", and please excuse the pun, gets under exactly that as metronomic piano chords chime with elegant simplicity amongst delicate vocals and luscious string instrumentation. It's all beautifully timed and Rae's lyrics possess a dark, haunting edge, the result is sure to bring goose-bumps to listeners all over.

8.Sea Change - Bridges

Sea Change (aka Ellen Sundes) was one of my revelations at The Great Escape (and judging by the reviews I've read, many others too). Even as an act I'd blogged about before the festival I was taken aback by her live show, performing as a trio in a pitch black (and tiny) basement I saw as intense and chilly a set I've ever, extraordinarily dark, her (surprisingly) epic electronic soundscapes and bass guitar rhythms combined perfectly around her undeniably sweet, ethereal vocal. It was simply stunning. The studio version of "Bridges" was released a couple of days before I departed for Brighton and with some distance from that performance the track still mesmerises, it starts relatively calm with ambient glitches, effects and spectral vocals immersing you within its hypnotic, dream-like state before spiraling to a searing finale of electronic noise, guitar and emotion.

7. The Night VI - Sienna

"Sienna" is simply magnificent, built around the crystal clear voice of Sophie-Rose, here filled with more heartache and emotion that you could bottle, the track will connect with anyone whose ever let someone they love slip through their fingers (pretty sure that's most of us) and supported by spacious, blissed-out instrumentation it provides an irresistible listen from its first to last moment.

6. Lykke Li - Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone

...sparse and confessional with languid, haunting acoustic echoes the sole accompaniment for Lykke's devastating delivery, you can tangibly feel her emotion throughout - what a beauty.

5. Sophie Jamieson - Stain / Other

"Stain" leaves exactly that on you, combining Sophie's delectable vocals, heart shattering lyrics and restrained instrumentation, the perfect marriage of space and structure to get under your skin with spine-tingling effect. The track comes backed with "Other", a fully realised beauty which highlights her bands influence more than ever. A stark, haunting drip feed of emotion.

4. Eliza Shaddad - You For Me

Labelled as a radio edit and yet six minutes in length (that's the same length as Bohemian Rhapsody, a story I'm sure we've all heard) the track epitomises the soft and graceful style of Eliza's music. "You For Me" really is as pretty a moment as I've heard all year, a genuine love song with ringing guitar patterns and a delicate, haunting backdrop which slowly introduces Eliza's stunning vocals, gorgeous and defiant, here coupled with lyrics as optimistic and heartfelt as you're ever likely to hear. "You For Me" is the sort of track that will bring you to a stand still whatever you are doing - simply magical.

3. Lisa Alma - Bittersweet

"Bittersweet", comes backed with a beautiful, pure black and white video, the imagery the perfect compliment to the track which leaves you longing, desperate for more. Backed by little more than subtle drum pad beats and minimal, spacious synths it's Lisa's vocal that steals the show and has me hooked. It immediately makes me think of Prince's falsetto, not just any old Prince either, the Purple One at his 80's best, seducing with every note, whispered, extended words that make you fall hopelessly under their spell. I love the extended outro too, with a smouldering guitar that captures the feeling of the track, just bloody gorgeous.

2. Broken Twin - In Dreams

A true highlight of an extraordinay album, as intimate and arresting an experience as music can offer

1. Shura - Touch

effortlessly sexy / cool melody that swoons amongst soft-glittering electronics and Shura's luxurious vocal, its simple and refined and despite its lyrics of "I wanna touch you but it's too late, I wanna touch you but there's history..." is straight-up baby-making music.

Hands down track of the year so far. Go and give it your love. 550k+ plays, Wow!!

Lykke Li #7 - No One Ever Loved

Lykke Li's recently released album I Never Learn contains nine tracks of heart-break, an open book of emotions and mourning. Here's another one; (Lykke's contribution to the soundtrack of the film The Fault In Our Stars) "No One Ever Loved".

The track is a beautifully taut piano led ballad that is both simple and devastating, serene ivory twinkles and ambient effects guide Lykke's typically intimate, pleading vocals and as a listener you are left close to tears.

There's a line in the track that sums up Lykke Li's third album material perfectly "yeah, it kills me every time"... indeed it does.

Lykke Li #6 - Gunshot

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The irreplaceable Lykke Li returns with the latest preview from her forthcoming third LP I Never Learn (due May 5th and available to pre-order here) "Gunshot".

The track is a slow-burner that blossoms from Lykke's typically devastating delivery and the same intimate, inwards emotion that accompanied earlier previews "No Rest For The Wicked" and "Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone" to dramatic power-ballad choruses and the repeated cries of "never get you back".

I'm glad of those choruses because I've kept saying how strong and eighties her live set sounded at the BBC Six Music Festival last month yet until now all we'd heard from I Never Learn was its moments of pain and rejection, here Lykke Li takes those same feelings and turns them on themselves with big, bold defiance. Something she's done before of course on the wonderful "Get Some" from Wounded Rhymes. I'm pretty excited to hear this record in full. Just a couple of weeks now. Stream "Gunshot" below.

Lykke Li #5 – No Rest For The Wicked

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A couple of weeks back when I talked about "Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone", the first taster of Lykke Li's forthcoming third album I Never Learn I mentioned a track I'd earlier heard live at the BBC 6Music Festival "No Rest For The Wicked" and talked about it as a 'big, dramatic 80's influenced power ballad'.

Yesterday we were treated to the studio version of the track and you might be wondering what I was listening too, here the track builds with typically Lykke Li style heartache and slow-burn beauty with space and cavernous drums taking centre stage ahead of the raw, forceful power of the live counterpart and here the track's piano chords emit the same sense of melancholy and emotion as the lyrics "Lonely I, I'm so alone now". Beautiful.

I Never Learn is due May 5th. I think you'll be hearing me talk about it again.

Lykke Li #4 - Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone

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I was lucky enough to be in Manchester last Saturday for the BBC 6Music Festival at Victoria Warehouse, playing at around 7pm in what I believe was her first show in a good year or two was Lykke Li, she played an eight song set, the first five all taken from 2011's wonderful Wounded Rhymes and the last three all new ones taken from her forthcoming (final?) LP I Never Learn which is due for release May 5th.

Those three tracks highlighted something slightly different to the track I'm writing about today, the first official track shared from the release "Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone". Where "Never Gonna Love Again" and "No Rest For The Wicked" highlight a big, dramatic 80's power ballad sound "Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone" is a continuation of the heartbreak from Wounded Rhymes, sounding like a long lost cousin of "I Know Places", the track is sparse and confessional with languid, haunting acoustic echoes the sole accompaniment for Lykke's devastating delivery, you can tangibly feel her emotion throughout - what a beauty.

Lykke Li has announced two London shows for May 8th/9th at Village Underground. Normally I'd be happy but I can't make it because it clashes with The Great Escape. If you're still in the Capital, you won't great the decision. The live set the other day was bigger and bolder than anytime I'd previously seen her.

David Lynch and Lykke Li - I’m Waiting Here

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Something you've probably seen featured on just about every blog you may read over the past few days, here's it again, I don't care, this track is too good not to feature...

Lykke Li adds her devastating vocals to a track with David Lynch, "I'm Waiting Here" is a heavenly combination of soft synths and haunting vocals that will (if you've a normal functioning heart) bring goosebumps all over.

Part whispered / partly spoken words, "I'm Waiting Here" is accompanied by a lonesome all-day drive video which perfectly transports you to the languid, dreamy state of melancholia / bliss that will make the next six minutes the best of your day.

The track features on the new David Lynch album The Big Dream due July 15th.

Twenty Five of the Best Songs of 2011 - Part One

I almost didn't post this (there is an obvious element of repetition between this and my favourite albums of the year) but as it was half finished decided to see it through, posting the first half now and the second half a little later today... the following are twenty five of (let's face it there were a lot more than 25 great songs this year) my favourite tracks of the year, not specifically displayed in order, impossible task!

25. Wild Flag - Future Crimes
Posted 7th September: "A guitar heavy, spunky track with infectious riffs, dancing drums, playful organ and catchy lyrics"

24. Dark Dark Dark - Daydreaming
Posted 20th January: "...the lead track "Daydreaming" is a really treat, vivid landscapes created by the beautifuly complex yet delicate and well-crafted instrumentation, soulful vocals and soaring melodies."

23. Battlekat - All The Useless Things
Posted 18th October: "All The Useless Things" continues along a similar vein to the earlier tracks we've heard, combining radio-friendly electronica and experimental mysticism, its relentless, thumping beat might just be the best thing I've heard from them so far"

22. The National - Think You Can Wait
Posted 16th March: "A slow-burning ballad with some achingly beautiful orchestration and an intoxicating backing vocal from Sharon Van Etten. You may guess I'm a bit of a sucker for female vocals but Matt Berninger's is arguable one of the most striking and impressive of his generation, especially with such heart-wrenching emotional songs as this."

21. Fever Ray - The Wolf
Posted 8th March: "Karin has contributed a track to Catherine Hardwicke’s (Twilight) new film Red Riding Hood, as much as it pains me to say it with the Fever Ray / Gary Oldman presence the film looks horrendous... "The Wolf" however is anything but horrendous, it's a sinister and frankly insane track. I'm sure it fit's in well on the dark adaptation of the classic Grimm fairy tale, if this doesn't make you want to run naked through a wood then nothing will, be a bit chilly though..."

20. Cold Cave - The Great Pan Is Dead
Posted 8th February: " The song, “The Great Pan Is Dead” is fucking great, generating an almost indistinguishable explosive wall of noise, a pummelling beat accompanies fuzzy guitars all washed around with mind blowing synths. A massive statement for the new album, can't wait." Shame, for me at least the album turned to be slightly disappointing.

19. Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Record Shop
Posted 30th August: "The themes are not in your ordinary indie-pop territory, playful melodies often hiding bitter-sweet lyrics such as rock star stalking on "Record Shop" and the romances of Nico on opener "Cottonopolis And Promises" but it's just as accessible and alluring all the same. Vocalist D. Lucille's cool, nonchalant vocals sound in contrast to the instrumentation but it works perfectly, HSOL are simply glorious."

18. Softspot - Holy Father
Posted September 7th: ""Holy Father" is an absolute monster. It starts peaceful enough, Sarah's hauntingly beautiful voice hits you straight away, it's unique, stunning. Accompanied by the rat-a-tat of drum sticks, slowly increasing in intensity as Brian's textured guitars glisten on the edge simmering until finally it explodes, cumulating in a euphoric cataclysm of aural pleasure, heavy-hitting drums, guitar buzz and hard bass-line riffs"

17. Veronica Falls - Come on Over
Posted 11th July: "The outstanding and hopeful closure "Come on Over" is certainly one of the highlights of the album and contains just about everything I love about Veronica Falls, urgent pacing where cleverly constructed male/female vocal harmonies deliciously combine whilst infectious, head-nodding melodies which embed themselves around your brain"

16. Clytem Scanning - Massue
Posted 26th January: "it's propulsive industrial beat is intense, addictive, brilliant. Marianne's vocal pierces through and then there are the crunching, dirty, sludge-like guitar riffs. It's one of the best electro tracks I've heard this year"

15. iamamwhoiam - John
Posted 19th May: "iamamiwhoami is certainly no gimmick, her Knife-esque electro soundscapes push every known boundary with their overall presentation and artistic creativity. It's definitely ambitious and it's unbelievably stunning, take her come back track "; John" with a long sprawling and frankly creepily weird video (that's one hell of a lot of toilet roll!) it's just outstanding, perhaps surpassing her own highs heard on "O" and "Y" the additively melodic electro dance track is simply one of the best tracks you'll hear this year, iamamiwhoami have raised the bar again, I hope it's the start of a new series of clips from her."

14. Lykke Li - Sadness is a Blessing
Posted 1st March: "Wrapped around her intimate, vulnerable lyrics are amongst the most beautiful songs I've hard this year combining sumptuous melodies, Lykke's gorgeous voice and pounding, tribal percussion, lots of percussion... On the starkly arranged "Sadness is a Blessing" we hear a heartbroken Lykke sing with sincere emotional tenderness of a victim of unrequited love."

13. Planningtorock - Living It Out
Posted 17th September : "this invigorating single version features some frenetic strings and convoluting beats to improve an already stunning track. The video sees Janine mystical and menacing, prancing around the streets of Berlin in a hazy, funky stomp - sensational."