x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

There’s scarcely a stadium chorus among the slowly unfolding sadness in this album.

Lykke Li - I Never Learn
Lykke Li - I Never Learn

I Never Learn

Lykke Li

(LL Recordings)

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It’s the oldest musical-motivation cliché in the book, but a broken heart remains one of the most potent catalysts for a record.

So it is with the Swedish songstress Lykke Li, who poured herself into I Never Learn in the wake of a failed relationship.

The quirky pep that introduced Li on her debut album Youth Novels six years ago is all but drained. In its place is a mournful collection of torch songs that she describes as power ballads – but there’s scarcely a stadium chorus among the slowly unfolding sadness.

There are fairly major hints that Li’s unhappiness stems from her own misdeeds – No Rest for the Wicked’s spine-tinglingly sparse opening builds into a widescreen wonder that concludes with the lament “I had his heart but I broke it every time”. Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone will chime with anybody marooned in a passionless relationship, too.

And while you wouldn’t wish such all-consuming heartbreak on anybody, Li’s loss has been her art’s gain: I Never Learn is a dramatic half-hour of hurt that could prove her magnum opus.

aworkman@thenational.ae