Welcome back, Lykke Li. A personal favourite of this writer, there was much squee-ing when Li began releasing tracks in preparation for her third studio album. ‘Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone’ and ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ became instant favourites, due to their catchy doom and gloom melodies. It was nice to see that Li had resisted the current trend of everyone releasing club hits (though I’m not sure how she would even go about that) and kept to her trademark simplistic musical backdrops. There’s still the bombastic-ness of her sophomore effort Wounded Rhymes, but its quieter, more subdued. Li has had a hell of a time since we last saw her, and we’re going to hear all about it.
There’s a bittersweet and tragic air that hangs over the album like the black veils Li found for her atmospheric album cover; imagine a whole album in the same vein as Wounded Rhymes’ ‘Sadness is a Blessing’, and you have I Never Learn. It’s maudlin, its miserable, but the most part of its pretty damn good. The title track starts quite quietly, but brings in strings to great effect and builds to a very hummable climax. There’s a temptation for singer-songwriters to let their voices get all the best riffs, but on ‘I Never Learn’ its the strings that really shine. There’s something delightfully retro about the best songs – from the 70’s feel of ‘I Never Learn’ to the so-90’s-power-ballad-that-it-comes-out-the-other-side-and-is-quite-alright of ‘Never Gonna Love Again’.
I Never Learn serves quite well as a less scenery chewing sister to Wounded Rhymes, or as an alternative soundtrack to Let the Right One In. With as much misery as there is on offer, it does wilt in places, and the relentless sorrow becomes a little dull at times, no matter how often choirs are thrown at the proceedings to give it a little extra wham. It’s to the album’s credit that it holds it together as much as it does – even though it feels like the album trails off rather than ends, most of it works. This much wallowing should not be this much fun, but it is.