Described by its author as the third installment of a trilogy, 'I Never Learn' does feel as if it is a natural successor to 28 year- old Swedish songstress Lykke Li's 2011 second effort 'Wounded Rhyme's, albeit darker and more slow burning.
Rock / pop, folk, blues and country, of course, have no shortage of albums about love and loss, but it is the truly great heartbreak records- Joni Mitchell's 'Blue', Bob Dylan's 'Blood On The Tracks', Beck's 'Sea Change' and Spiritualized's 'Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space'- that, lyrically, musically and sonically, analyse themes of love and heartbreak from every conceivable angle.
Dynamics, of course, play a key role: not having too many songs in the same key; shifting the tempo from song to song; working against the restrictions that focusing a record on a single theme can impose on the record's tone and mood. Unfortunately, Li, more often than not, mistakes one-dimensional songs and sounds for consistency, meaning that this nine track record clocking in at 32: 50 feels longer than it really should.
Gated reverb, used throughout the record, reflects that echo-ing sense of emptiness found in Li's weary lyrics. It is, however, a sonic effect that wears off by the end of 'Silver Line' and by track seven, the clichéd 'Never Gonna Love Again', it begins to define the record as sounding one- dimensional and jaded.
Like a Prince Charming arriving just in time, 'Gunshot' gives 'I Never Learn’ a vital injection of fresh energy that it desperately needs, the robust rhythms and multi tracked vocals of which make it an anthem- in- waiting, much like lead single 'No Rest for the Wicked'.
The real treat, however, is album- closer 'Sleeping Alone', which recalls Cat Power at her lovelorn best. Softly playing the piano, there's a sound of defiance in Li's wounded vocal, sung to the backdrop of a pedal steel guitar.
There's no doubt, as Li sings in the final strains of 'Sleeping Alone', that 'We'll meet again'. Hopefully, by record number four, Li will have brought the highs as well as the lows, showcasing the versatility at which earlier records previously hinted.
Review by Phil Cummins | THREE STARS