Lykke Li - Youth Novels

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Sweden’s Lykke Li Youth Novels is a hushed piece of pop perfection that announces the twenty-two year old as the indie sets favourite pop star of 2008.

With the salivating press playing up the bohemic eccentricities of her biography – her artist parents, the childhood alternating between Portugal and Sweden, the family trips to India, the early gigs at open mics in New York – it’s incredibly tempting to read Youth Novels as autobiography. Though its fourteen chapters weave a tale not of her travels, but of the delicate and fleeting details of love, youth, confusion, frustration and obsession without ever offering the dull whine of a ‘misunderstood’ teen’s diary.

These apparently simple tunes become incredibly addictive almost immediately with their perfect blend and balance of flavours – sweet without cloying; coy yet direct; honest and sly. Produced by Bjorn Yttling, of Peter, Bjorn and John fame, the tunes are finely crafted gems that show off Lykke Li’s calm, near hushed vocals. Richly detailed and stripped of the bombast that overrides the majority of pop productions, which are interchangeably laid behind any current starlet as long as their management forks out the cash. Rather than the rock guitar and synthesised orchestrations of commercial radio’s pop charts, Youth Novels features a more refined instrumentation with harpsichords, handclaps, flutes and theremins making welcome appearances.

The fragile Little Bit casts Lykke Li as an innocent as she sings with breathy coyness ‘for you I keep my legs apart’. I’m Good I’m Gone offers a more orthodox pop approach with a piano bassline hook and hand-clap percussion guiding Lykke’s vocals to a soaring chorus, while Dance, Dance, Dance also skittles along with a jerky marionette swirl. The lonely Tonight pushes Lykke’s heart string vocals to the fore as she pleads ‘don’t you let me go tonight’. Complaint Department with its dark electronic beats and drum machine offers the most menacing moment on the record as Lykke coldly delivers her unsympathetic advice – ‘If you want to complain, I’m not the Complaint Department’.

Though her voice does threaten to cross the line into cutesy trills, especially when searching for the higher keys, Youth Novels is sure to leave you delightfully smitten with one of 2008s breakthrough stars.

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