Heartbreak harmonies

Heartbreak harmonies
CD cover: Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos

Albums of the week

Lykke Li


Broken Twin

Moaning and wallowing and pouring terrible scorn on the other party - you expect fireworks in break-up albums.

This week's three releases - I Never Learn by Swedish thrush Lykke Li, Ghost Stories by English indie-rockers Coldplay, and May by Danish newcomer Broken Twin - demonstrate how fragile the human heart is.

It gets broken time and again - how you deal with a break-up separates the merely ho-hum from the genuinely stirring.

Lykke Li's third album, I Never Learn, is her bleakest and most uncompromising yet, billed by the singer as "power ballads for the broken".

It's light years away from the hipster chic of her 2008 debut, Youth Novels, and a parallel universe to the brilliantly fraught 2011 follow-up, Wounded Rhymes. Whereas previously, she's paraded as a goth-dance widow belting 1960s-styled girl group choruses, here she's more ascetic, drawing you into her mysterious cave.

But what a cave - it's a cavern with Sensurround emotions ricocheting off its walls.

She's incapable of masking or moderating her spleen.

"I lie here like a starless lover/I'll die here as your phantom lover," she sings in the opening title track, echoey, as a tsunami of guitars and strings wells up and drowns you.

Her catharsis spews all over, yet, strangely, the melody is naked, stripped to its bone.

The template is repeated throughout. For less patient ears, this may sound indulgent. It's a fair criticism.

Still, given the right mood and time (midnight, hours before you drag yourself out of bed to go to work), I Never Learn is exactly what one needs to feel bad.

Never Gonna Love Again swirls as a goth-psych anthem from This Mortal Coil, but amplified for 21st-century radio play.

The claustrophobically strummed Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone makes for deliciously unpleasant listening - her voice fraying till she tips over the cliff and the words don't matter.

In comparison, Coldplay's sixth album, Ghost Stories, is measured to a fault.

Coming in the wake of frontman Chris Martin's "conscious uncoupling" from actress Gwyneth Paltrow, it's an album pivoted on different stages of loss.

Yet, you can barely get a glimpse into the singer's head, least of all his grieving heart. The songs subsist in a purgatorial La La Land where you can gently bob along to the band's melancholy chill.

The decorum is initially fetching, as you try to pinpoint references to real life in the single Magic, particularly its accompanying video which shows Martin in a love triangle with a nastier alter ego and Zhang Ziyi as a circus performer.

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