2011's Wounded Rhymes showed a more energetic and diverse side of Lykke Li as opposed to the modest, if not meek, pop of her 2008 debut album Youth Novels. On this, her third album, she tones it down considerably without losing the expansive sound of her last album. Her most focused and shortest alum yet, I Never Learn is actually a breakup album, written in the wake of Li's acrimonious split from her long-time boyfriend just before she moved from Sweden to Los Angeles. Calling the album "melancholy" only skims the surface. Musically, it does jump around once more, but the downtrodden atmosphere, morose lyrics, and Li's stuttering, mildly nasally vocals make I Never Learn work best as unified whole, in spite of the strength of its individual songs.
The album's influences are diverse and readily apparent. Van Morrison's Astral Weeks is echoed in the starkness of songs like the opening title track and "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone", the latter being perhaps the most emotionally lacerating song of Li's discography. Featuring a different production style than the rest of the album, Li sounds as if she's going to burst into sobs by the final chorus. The other extreme on I Never Learn comes in the form of songs like "Never Gonna Love Again" (which sounds uplifting compared to the aforementioned preceding song) and the especially lush "Just Like a Dream": reverb-filled, sweetly melodic, and deceptively depressing; akin to the Cure's seminal Disintegration. Li sounds best when she chooses one end of the spectrum to work with rather than stray towards the middle, but each of the songs has something to offer and is an important part of the album's theme/story. Once the plaintive piano ballad "Sleeping Alone" closes out I Never Learn's 33-minute runtime, the listener is expected to feel emotionally drained.
Lykke Li seems destined to reach a larger audience with this album, at least as far as America is concerned. She broke the Billboard Top 30 (not that that sort of thing means much anymore, but still) and is set to headline venues like the Hollywood Palladium and Radio City Music Hall come autumn. Regardless, I Never Learn is sure to be considered one of 2014's top albums. Closing a self-described trilogy that began on her first two albums, it remains to be seen whether Lykke Li will return to less soul-crushing territory on works to follow.
Lykke Li follows up with her third album with the same mood as from her previous, Wounded Rhymes from 2011. But I personally like this album better than the last because it has the same melancholic atmosphere but in a more stripped down version. This has become my new favorite album from her, before I liked the debut, Youth Novels better from 2008. This album had a much sweeter vibe to it, like it said "My heart is broken, but i can still write some more or less sweet songs about it. This vibe got replaced with the much more melancolic atmosphere on the 2011 album, and now also this. Where Wounded Rhymes had its moments on tracks like Unrequited Love and I Know Places, it showed a more upbeat side on tracks like Get Some and I Follow Rivers. But on this album, there is highlights such as (to name a few) like Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone and Heart of Steel, which all appeal much more to me. On Heart of Steel there is this choir added on the chorus which makes it a really beautiful song.
But the album still has the big ballads like No Rest For the Wicked and Gunshot, but these songs are still better than the last album. All though, it's not all songs that comes out equally strong like Sleeping Alone and Just Like a Dream stand out as the most weak tracks on this album to me. But it still makes it a good record, because there is a nice coherence on the whole album, and with the stunning opener I Never Learn it sets the mood for the rest of the album. Definitely her most solid album yet, in my point of view.