‘I Never Learn,’ Lykke Li

“I Never Learn” is an emotional journey of hurt and heartache.



Allison Winters, Writer

"I Never Learn" should come with a trigger warning, as it’s only right to let listeners know ahead of time what they are getting themselves into. Perhaps the blaring font across the album's packaging tells buyers, “Be wary, this album could possibly destroy you.”

Lykke Li's third studio release doesn't send listeners into a whirlpool of hurt and heartache, but instead drags them down alongside her, drowning them in acute reverbs and fresh wounds of failed love.

The Swedish singer/songwriter’s spot-on vocals are now enveloped in layers of synths and chamber echos in this new album, but they are still recognizable as those of the Nordic princess of “Dance Dance Dance” and “I Follow Rivers” from her previous albums. “I Never Learn” is not an easy group of tracks to listen to — it is, in fact, Li’s response to the painful ending of a long relationship, after which she moved from her homeland of Sweden to Los Angeles to start over from the ground up. But this new album is worth the time listeners will spend as they find themselves relating, sympathetically or empathetically, to Li’s chronicles of heartbreak.

“I Never Learn” opens with the title track, setting the heavy tone for the rest of the album. Lykke Li sings out about her torch-still-carried for an old love with a steady and sure acoustic guitar setting the pace behind the familiar vocals. “No Rest for the Wicked” follows with the aching lyrics, “Lonely I / I’m so alone now” and “I let my true love die / I had his heart but I broke it every time,” spotlighted by a twinkling piano and the sonic boom of synth drums.

Right off the bat, listeners become hyper aware that this is not a feel-good album. “Gunshot” marks the climax of “I Never Learn,” with waxing and waning percussion, a snare flitting in and out of the verses. Then the chorus punches in, “And the shot goes through my head and back / Gunshot, I can't take it back,” with resounding kick drum beats and bangs on the piano as the song comes to an end.

If listeners are not a sobbing wreck by now, the second half of “I Never Learn” should sufficiently break even the strongest down into an emotional heap on the ground, hands over heart, swearing off love for the rest of their lives. “Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone” is one of the most moving tracks on the album. Li’s choking vocals coupled with a singular acoustic guitar, strumming away, make this the most basic, stripped-down track and let all meaning and weight come from the aching lyrics and delivery. “Never Gonna Love Again,” “Heart of Steel,” and “Sleeping Alone” round out the end of this half hour of hurt.

“I Never Learn” is an emotional and heavy album but is a perfect application of the phrase “No pain, no gain.” This record stings listeners whether or not they have personally experienced Li’s heartbreak but after muscling their way through, leaves them with the sense of being all the better for enduring the ache. 

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