LI LYKKE Timotej Svensson Zachrisson, AKA Lykke Li, made a big breakthrough with her 2008 debut album, Youth Novels. Its songs were chalked with shimmery percussion, clean synth hooks, precise rhythmic steps, and the Swedish-born singer's melodically bouncing vocals—creating pop not only palpable but addicting. Six years later, Lykke Li's rhythms have stretched into drawn-out ballads, and her voice has grown richer in resonance and lyrical substance on her newest release, I Never Learn.
"It's very powerful and it's very high intensity," Li says. "There's nothing to hide behind."
I Never Learn's lush, dark synth beds, slow pulsing drums, and minor-key melodies march toward swooping choruses. It feels like a series of finales strung together, but for Li, it's far from that. "As everyone else, I'm just trying to survive, trying to get by, trying to learn more," she says, "so it's not necessarily a final product, it's more of an experiment."
The album is straightforward in its message; it's a breakup piece. But the songs' individual lyrics—specifically in songs like "Gunshot"—still have a cryptic quality to them.
"I wrote it, so it's so easy for me to step into that," Li says. "I know exactly what it's about and where I was and where I am now. I basically just tell the truth and not try to lie."
Only 28 and already close to a decade into her career, Lykke Li spent her childhood moving between exotic places like Nepal and Portugal before landing in New York, where her career has grown as a musician, model, and, recently, as an actor. Despite her multifaceted global exposure, Li's a fairly private person, which would seem to make singing her newest, most vulnerable material nightly in front of massive audiences a bit of a challenge.
"I don't think about it in that way," she says. "I need to let it go and I need to put it out into the world, and I don't imagine who's going to listen to it. All I know is that I let it go, and then I move on.
"Although it's a little hard because you keep on having to sing it," Li adds. "It does take you back, so it is a bit of a vortex."