Sound ‘Round: Lykke Li / Jack White

Black and blueLykke Li – I Never Learn (Atlantic)lykke li - i never learnThis coy songstress is currently Sweden’s leading exporter of melancholy. A young career thus far marked by perpetual brooding, she broke through stateside in 2011 with album of doom-and-gloom love songs more catchy than reflective. Ditto this concise nine-song sequel which swaps the big-beat production of its predecessor for the cavernous ways of dream pop. There’s plenty to roll your eyes at: the mascara-stained pillow talk, the Tim Burton color scheme, lyrics more corny than scornful. That each track concerns a recent breakup only adds to the melodrama. Once again, she’s rescued by her instincts for a good hook. As cliché as her wounded rhymes are, I find myself intermittently humming half of them and latching on to a worthy melodic nugget in the ones I don’t. She’ll always make music like this – heavy on feeling and bad metaphor. She bodes well for herself on the closing number, which sports a hint of optimism. “If you save your heart for mine / we’ll meet again.” Hopefully she means it. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: Gunshot” / “No Rest For The Wicked” / “Sleeping Alone

Jack White – Lazaretto (Third Man)

Jack White - LazarettoThe comments made to Rolling Stone regarding his reticent, and seemingly apathetic, ex-wife, proves Jack White is still spurned by the sudden end of the band that made him famous. “She’s one of those people who won’t high-five me when I get the touchdown,” he said.  And so it is White gets busy living, soldiering on as before – combining the messy crunch of Detroit with the meticulous twang of Nashville. A solidified crew of studio pros at the ready, his second go ‘round as a solo artist is more assured and robust. The riffs are as meaty and dynamic as they’ve been in years, the solos have a frenzied sense of renewal and White’s vocal performance sounds like a man at ease with his second career. An inspection of the lyrics, supposedly reupholstered from a play White penned as a teenager, won’t silence critics weary of his supposed woman-bashing ways. The man in question rebukes the detractors, as would I. But for someone so obsessively cryptic on record and in public, there can be no doubt as to whom he address in the sharpest line on the title track: “When I say nothing / I say everything.” GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: Lazaretto” / “Temporary Ground” / “Black Bat Licorice”

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