What is with the Swedes? Who knew that the stunningly beautiful country, home of delicious meated gravy-smothered balls would become such a hotbed of young, talented, and creative musicians like the Shout Out Louds and Peter, Bjorn and John? When I heard that Bjorn Yttling had worked with Lykke Li, both producing and writing for Youth Novels, I decided to
purchase the album and give it a listen.
The first thing you notice is Lykke’s voice. She sounds like a little girl, and the spoken word first track, “Melodies and Desires” is purposefully provactive, playing on her vocal quality for a disturbing, trance-like affect. Like other spoken word tracks, it’s hard to listen to this more than once. Thankfully, the album picks up steam with the sweet, albeit a little precious, “Dance, Dance, Dance”. Youth Novels is impeccably produced by Bjorn, with precise and sparse instrumentation that never detracts from Lykke’s vocals, but also keeps her high, sometimes affected voice from becoming less than charming. “I’m Good, I’m Gone”, “Let It Fall”, “Tonight”, and “Little Bit” are all good examples of this, showcasing Bjorn’s expertise with melody.
About half of the tracks feature Lykke venturing into experimental territory, with the stalking “Window Blues”, “This Trumpet In My Head”, and the hollow sadness of “Hanging High”. Songs like “Complaint Department” and “Breaking It Up” give off dance vibes until you realize there is hardly any music happening under the background vocals. It’s to Lykke’s credit that she doesn’t allow herself to be classified in any one category of pop and is willing to carve out a distinct place amidst a plethora of young female artists. Youth Novels relies on her ability to deliver a lyric and capture the dramatic emotion of youth, and is successful on those counts. That, and the top production value, are the best reasons to keep this album in your playlists.