Trailed as the third album in the apparent trilogy of her debut Youth Novels and follow up Wounded Rhymes, it’s initially hard to see how Lykke Li’s latest integrates with what has come before. It soon becomes apparent however that I Never Learn is an exercise in maturing for the Swede. After the three year break since reaching commercial success with single ‘I Follow Rivers’, she is in a reflective mood. With an album title such as this she is taking the pain and despair of relationships past and channelling it into nine songs of pure heartache.
‘I Never Learn’ itself opens proceedings and immediately sets the tone. The song is big and bold while still being predominately melancholic, which seems to be the mood of the entire piece. ‘No Rest For The Wicked’ sounds more like classic Lykke Li with twinkling pianos and booming drums in the background, creating an epic landscape that is by far the catchiest song in the collection and the most listenable, radio friendly song here.
Elsewhere it’s hard work. ‘Just Like A Dream’ and ‘Silver Line’ are disappointing and forgettable, blending in to one whining mess. ‘Love Me Like I Am Not Made of Stone’ and ‘Never Gonna Love Again’ are tedious ballads about a love lost, highly self–indulgent in their misery. It all ends with the piano driven ‘Sleeping Alone’, finishing the album on a sombre, depressing note.
The album may prove a difficult move for those who have come to admire Lykke Li’s usual quirky, catchy, danceable music. She has often dipped in to ballad territory but with I Never Learn she has dived off the deep end. It is a strenuous listen with no positive leeway on any tracks, making it tiresome and banal – ‘No Rest For The Wicked’ aside. The despair of the lyrics are so strong that it really depends on personal circumstance or if you are a die–hard fan, whether or not you will find it in you to join Li and her latest journey.