Explore Issue 01 of LOOP Magazine

Featuring Sam Tompkins and Victor Ray as our cover stars, as well as internal spreads from Girli, Jords, Mysie, Finn Askew, Kara Marni and Master Peace

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Lykke Li Opts For Sonic Simplicity to Deliver Most Emotionally Intense Album Yet in ‘Eyeye’

Lykke Li’s discography has scored my life’s angstiest moments. Little Bit was the ideal song to loop on my iPod, stare out the car window and daydream about how I too would spread my virgin “legs apart” at 15 years old (if only someone would want to date me). At 19 years old, I’d play Everybody But Me in my empty dorm room and borrow that line about “when everybody’s dancing (I don’t want to)” to caption my Instagram selfie, an attempt to feel better about the fact that I was not dancing with other collegiates in a sweaty living room (because I didn’t get an invite). Fast forward to 24, and I’d blast “sex money feelings die” as my shower music of choice, the perfect background music to play while my mind indulged in fantasies of the hedonistic lifestyle I wanted for my new sexy adult life (which I mainly fulfilled by ordering Corona Lights at Saddle Ranch’s bar).

What do all those experiences have in common, no matter my age or the Li song? The answer: longing. 

Li’s music makes you yearn, so her new album couldn’t have arrived at a better time (for me, at least). I’m now a 26-year-old who spends most of her time consuming shoujo romance anime and manga, which I blame on pandemic-induced age regression. The joy of rekindling an old hobby aside, really, I’m looking to recreate the same pure intensity a high school crush or fictional character or my first Li song gave me as a teen.

It sounds like this is the same feeling Li was striving for when she composed Eyeye, an eight-track album that is her “attempt to compress a lifetime of romantic obsession and female fantasy into a hyper sensory landscape,” per the Swedish singer’s press release obtained by NME

It’s an ambitious goal, which Li didn’t set out to achieve with over-the-top production (like you may be used to with her dance-friendly hits I Follow Rivers and sex money feelings die). Rather, Li and producer Björn Yttling – whom she last worked with for her 2014 album I Never Learn– stripped down the technical behind-the-scenes work.

“There were no click-tracks, no headphones, and no digital instruments. The vocals were recorded on a handheld $70 [£53] drum mic, often in the moment of composition, giving the lyrics the still-beating sound of fresh heartbreak being whispered into your ear,”

Li revealed in her press release.

Indeed, Li is crooning right into our ears in Eyeye, no excessive instruments or digital music production to polish the pain and craving in her voice. Without such distractions, we are forced to listen to this woman’s vulnerability, whether she’s wanting to “rewind” back in time to be with an old flame who has moved on with “someone else” in Hotel, desperately asking an emotionally-distant muse if they do “not feel,” or pleading with a lover to “turn around” as she weeps during an apparent breakup in ü&i. The songs aren’t necessarily poetic as some sad ballads aim to be, but rather therapeutic, as though Li’s repetitiveness is an attempt to vent to herself and listeners. 

Make no mistake: as organic the production of Eyeye is, this isn’t one of those albums that takes an acoustic-only approach. The production itself is still ethereal, like Li’s previous works. Happy Hurts is particularly transcendent, which makes you feel as though you’re ascending into a blob of light and then crashing down “back to earth,” as Li sings, when the song shifts from uplifting organic music and harmonies to melancholic minor keys. One of the most magical moments on the album is found in Carousel, which ends with the dreamiest sequence of sounds meant to mimic the experience of being locked into a perpetual loopty-loop with that one person you can’t just seem to break away from. 

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The music videos for Eyeye are just as raw as the tracks. Actually, “music video” feels like the wrong term to use here: Li’s press release describes them as “seven visual loops” – which cinematographer Edu Grau shot on 16 millimeter film, directed by Edu Grau – that appear to look more like snippets from a moody A24 movie. 

This may not be your favorite Li album, depending on your musical mood preferences; admittedly, it’s not mine. There are no indie pop dance hits on this tracklist. But Li accomplishes what she set out to do: create a “hyper sensory landscape,” perfect for yearning in, whether that’s expressed through crying or tuning out in a wistful trance. It’s a more harrowing yet still familiar listening experience to the one I had at 15 years old, when I first stumbled across Li’s music. 

Words by Jade Boren

Posted On 4 October, 2022