That she’s the weakest element of her debut’s two spoken-word pieces, the dreamy intro “Melodies & Desires” and the midway interlude “This Trumpet in My Head,” speaks to either Swedish pop artist Lykke Li’s strength as a singer or, more likely, the strength of the album’s musical arrangements and production, which come courtesy of Björn Yttling (of Peter Björn and John) and Lasse Mårtén, who has worked with such aboveground pop singers as Kelly Clarkson, Pink and Celine Dion. There’s a daintiness to Li’s reverb-drenched voice, and it borders on parody (of both herself and her ilk) on the precious “Time Flies.” Li doesn’t possess the necessary bravado to pull off a lyric like “For you I keep my legs apart” (“Little Bit”), but she summons enough rancor—even without the vocal distortion—to make the kiss-off “Breaking It Up” an album highlight. By sheer virtue of the fact that English is not its singer’s first language, “Complaint Department” should be afforded the kind of leniency Björk’s often simple-cute lyrics have enjoyed over the years, only sans their inherent profundity: “If you want to complain, I’m not the complaint department!” is the song’s repeated refrain. Still, Li seems most comfortable playing nice, whether it’s verging on spiritual ecstasy while awaiting the return of her lover on “My Love,” or wallowing in weepy splendor (“I like it salt, I like it wet, like my makeup in a mess”), as she does on “Let It Fall,” which could easily be mistaken for a track from Robyn. Overall, Li manages not to get swept away by Yttling and Mårtén’s resourceful accompaniments—a sax solo comes out of nowhere (probably from another decade) on the sparsely arranged “Dance, Dance, Dance,” on which the admittedly (but not surprisingly) shy Li informs us that her hips do lie. Her bashfulness is, in fact, an asset: “Everybody But Me” is such a triumphant ode to being antisocial that it makes you want to follow Li into whatever quiet corner of the bar she manages to escape to.
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