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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Lykke Li

By Malachai Phelps
Published August 21, 2008

Youth Novels
LL Recordings

When it comes to making an honest assessment of electronic music from Scandanavia, it’s still easy to think of Sweden in particular as the province of coldly orchestrated ABBA-like pop, forever frozen in the lights of mirror balls and discotheques. Twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter Lykke Li is out to change that perception, and she’s doing it with songs that are as diverse and peripatetic as her own life has been—since childhood, Li has has shuttled between Portugal, India and New York City for extended stretches. Whether she’s waxing intimate and vulnerable on the echowashed piano ballad “Melodies & Desires,” or rocking out on the oddly new-wavish “Breaking It Up,” Li is adding a fresh voice to a growing collective of homegrown Swedish talent that includes El Perro Del Mar and Anna Ternheim (with whom she toured earlier this year), and yet she stands out even more for her unusual choices in the studio (where she’s joined by producer Bjorn Yttling of the famed psych-pop trio Peter, Bjorn and John). Is there anyone else of her generation who can sound like she’s fronting a ’60s Motown girl group, even over distorted beatbox rhythms and tripped-out organ lines, as she does on the catchy ditty “Let It Fall”? We don’t think so either.