One day in my internet travels, I came across a link for a new Lykke Li song. I had nothing against Lykke Li, but I might never have clicked on this link if it weren’t for the song title: “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone.” Lord knows I have a propensity for sad songs, and that title just grabs at the heart. After one listen, I became ever-so-slightly obsessed. Obsessed enough to order the entire album after it was released on May 2.
Although “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone” is the most gut-wrenching track, it gives an accurate representation of I Never Learn as a whole. This is a breakup album from start to finish, even though that journey only spans the length of nine songs. Lykke Li has some of the bombast of Florence + the Machine, but her voice has a rawer edge. One could easily criticize the album for being one-note, but we could flip that argument on its head and call it cohesive. For those of us who turn to music for solace, an album that explores one theme can be just the right antidote.
True to my nature, my favorite tracks are probably the most heartbreaking. “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone” is the most obvious example. With a simple arrangement, Lykke Li’s voice is the centerpiece, allowing the pain to rise to the top. The song captures a moment of pure vulnerability, her voice occasionally breaking with emotion. I understand if this song makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry, and maybe if you don’t like it for that reason. Personally, I think there’s a beauty and courage to sharing sadness through art.
For other standout tracks, look no further than the first three songs. “I Never Learn” is the perfect thesis statement for the album. The lyrics may be somewhat abstract, but the singer’s message is clear enough: I am a person who has been struck by love and lost it. I am the person who will share these stories. It would be a stretch to call the arrangement upbeat, but it certainly builds some momentum for the rest of the album.
“No Rest For The Wicked” has quickly become a favorite of mine. The singer takes on the role of the person causing hurt, although she is also hurting herself. The music provides a sense of foreboding, the backdrop for a person who feels incapable of fixing her mistakes. “I let my good one down / I let my true love die / I had his heart but I broke it every time.” I mean, doesn’t that just break your heart exquisitely? The trio is rounded out by “Just Like A Dream,” a cautiously hopeful plea for her lover to return.
When I review an album, it’s hard not to approach it like I would a book or movie. I think of music as another form of narrative. By that logic, Lykke Li is the narrator, and she can be discussed in the same way I might discuss the “speaker” of a poem. This is probably not the most satisfying method of criticism for people who favor musical elements over lyrics, but it’s the most honest method for me to employ. If I continue with my poetry analogy, the music is the form, and the lyrics are the content. As my wise professors taught me, form is content, each adding to the meaning of the work as a whole. Hopefully my way of reviewing music is accessible to other people’s experiences.