Swedish pop music usually comes in two forms: the glossy, hook-laden kind (Roxette, any Max Martin production) or the twee, fairy-dusted indie-rock sort (The Concretes, Shout Out Louds). But 22-year-old Lykke Li incorporates elements from both types on her bewitching debut, Youth Novels, perhaps because the album was co-produced by Björn Yttling (of Peter, Björn and John) and Lasse Mårtén (who engineered Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”).
Rich, evocative percussion—in the form of timpani, handclaps and xylophone—dots its midnight-hued keyboards and fluttery guitars, although Novels is neither straightforward synth-pop nor rock. “Complaint Department” sounds like Depeche Mode fronted by a child robot; tropical rhythms and electronic clatters dot “Little Bit,” and “I’m Good, I’m Gone” is a brisk strut driven by a sinewy, low piano melody and Li’s torch-singer sass.
The icy, spoken-word delicacy “Melodies & Desires” rivals ambient Goldfrapp for atmospherics and seduction quotient, while “My Love” blossoms from gentle pastoral folk into a sunrise hymn featuring a choir of vocalists. Still, despite this impeccable production, little of Novels lingers; although it’s a pleasant-enough listen, the album’s melodies and expressions fade immediately after it ends—much the way frothy cotton candy melts away as soon as it hits your mouth.
The bottom line: ***