Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Lykke Li’s wounded rhymes

There’s a darkness on the edge of the town which Lykke Li calls home. Out here, out beyond the aching bright lights and the sugar-high neon, out in the middle of the desert, there’s ennui and heartbreak and melancholy. As …

Mon, Apr 18, 2011, 09:47


There’s a darkness on the edge of the town which Lykke Li calls home. Out here, out beyond the aching bright lights and the sugar-high neon, out in the middle of the desert, there’s ennui and heartbreak and melancholy. As she has shown on her new album “Wounded Rhymes”, that’s where she wants to go. That’s where she needs to go.

The problem, though, as she pointed out when I interviewed her on Saturday afternoon, is that the audience who are by her side still want “Little Bit”. Yes, she knows she’d still be hanging out in Sweden if it wasn’t for this audience who fell in love with her debut album “Youth Novels” in 2008 and pushed her to the top of their best-of-everyone lists. Yes, she knows she has a rep for giving out about a lot of things (another subject which she talked about at great length) but it’s the touring and this audience who ensure that she can actually make superb, dramatic albums like “Wounded Rhymes” to begin with. She’d love to be like Kate Bush, an artist who can get by without the constant need to tour, but that’s just a throwback to a different time and a different place. Ancient history, like. You don’t get to make records any more unless you go out and push yourself.

At Tripod later that night, you can see what she is talking about for yourself. Well, more like “hear” this problem for yourself. When Lykki Li and her superb band play a song from the new album – especially one of those songs full of dramatic pauses and silent shouts, the crowd babble away. In these recessionary times, it’s always fascinating to come across a crowd of Irish people who are happy to pay a lot of cash for a ticket and then spend the show yakking to their friends about some ROFLOL cat they saw on your man’s Facebook wall. This crowd just want to hear the big tunes like “Little Bit” and “Get Some”. That’s what they’re here for, a big night out.

But Lykke Li knows that there’s another side to any big night out and this is what makes her so fascinating. A lot of reviewers have made great play from the fact that even the most euphoric of Scandanavian electropop always comes with a side-dish of downbeat, bittersweet sadness, but you can apply this logic to a lot of electropop which has never come within an reindeer’s roar of the aurora borealis. The loneliest place in the galaxy is often on a crowded dancefloor under a spinning, mesmerising mirrorball.

In the case of Li and her latest album, this melancholy and darkness powers what is one of the year’s most intriguing releases. She headed to a house in Echo Park in Los Angeles to write and record, but mainly to feel the warmth of the sun on her back. She watched John Cassavetes’ films, was bewitched by the haze from the desert and wrote songs which were framed by the weird primal energy she felt in the city. As the songs became darker and more rounded, Li’s voice too subtly changed, substituing the shy flirty tones used on “Youth Novels” for an instrument far more assured and toned.

When she plays these new songs at Tripod, songs like “Sadness Is A Blessing” for instance, the depth of what Lykke Li 2.0 is all about is plain to see. Her new standards mean she’s pulling old songs up by their bootstraps, flushing and flashing them to fit in with where she now stands. She provides clues about where she’s heading when she throws in a few stabs of The Knife’s “Silent Shout”. Back in black – she’s suited and booted in black to match the stage with its black drapes – she’s still at the heart of everything that’s going on, but it’s the magnificent span and scope of her songs which really captivate. At this rate, we can only marvel at what Lykke Li 3.0 will be all about.

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