Soft distant chords, airy voice lightly wafting lyrical truths through headphones, percussion beating strongly, strange choruses filled with alien ideas of love that belong above the earth not on it; anger, violence, warmth, sentimentality in one breath.
Lykke Li, in many ways, defined my introduction to the kind of music I actually understood. Before, music was a kind of noise used to drain out into the background, but hers was the first I let into my heart. I felt so connected to the Swedish songstress at fourteen years old, slowly swaying alone in my room, dreaming of far off realities, longing to feel something.
My grandma had just died, the first time I heard her music. I’m not sure if that’s significant, but it certainly felt so at the time, as did so many other things. At times, being a teenager was characterised by the almosts, the might haves, the whimpers of things yet to come, and in this light everything felt magical. Many things have lost their sparkle since then, but Lykke Li’s music continues to affects me in indescribable ways.
Her lyrics are raw, clawing at your bones to let them in. She transcends pride and lets herself be seen, in all her flaws and heartbreak and misery and joy. She claims, ‘hands down, I’m too proud for love’, showing a sense of self-awareness through a thin veil of pain. Her hurt is almost tangible, you can feel it in the room, as though she bled onto the page as she constructed her music, but it’s the kind of pain that both undercuts and forms the basis for human interaction that comes following the Fall. Maybe her innocence is lost, but her connection to the earth and to her original form is always present.
My favourite of her songs;
1. Little Bit (Youth Novels)
This was, for me, the original magic that converted me. From ‘I will never ever be the first to say it, but still, I know it’ to ‘you’re my baby, I love you, love, a little bit’, every line pricks at my heart.
2. Love Out of Lust (Wounded Rhymes)
Mist is the crux of this song. You can feel the air clumping together around the major chords of the chorus, hanging onto the space between love and lust, if such a space exists at all.
3. Never Gonna Love Again (I Never Learn)
From the ultimate break up album, Lykke Li cuts at deep seated existentialist insecurities. In part, the song makes you feel like you’re all alone in the world, but somehow, it allows the beauty of solitude to shine.
Historically, folk music was played among working class communities to make everyday, menial tasks more bearable, to create joy from the ordinary. Lykke Li’s music carries on that tradition into the contemporary era, employing pared back instrumentals with open, heart clutching lyrics. While critics began to place her within the category of pop following the release of her first album, Youth Novels, she has always resisted carrying identifying labels for her music, and seeks to uncover an authentic self-expression, however that may appear at any given point in time, declaring ‘this is me making love to my demons’.
Lykke Li is the type of soul who changes the face of the earth in a few chords. My interior world was irrevocably changed through her elegantly deliberate, roughly handled emotions converted into music.