Youth Novels, the debut from 22-year-old Lykke Li, is “both youthful and novel,” said K. Ross Hoffman in Allmusic.com. But it’s obviously the work of a young woman still quite unsure of herself. Completed when the Swedish songbird was only 21, the album aims to capitalize on the critical attention showered on her EP Little Bit. At its start, on “Dance, Dance, Dance,” she coos “My hips they lie / ’cause in reality I’m shy, shy, shy.” By its end, on “Little Bit,” Li has overcome her bashfulness, singing “For you I keep my legs apart / And forget about my tainted heart.” Though Li has yet to come into her own, she already sounds “witty and self-possessed,” said Stephen Deusner in Paste. Ballads such as “Tonight” reveal her “range and reach,” even if her coquettish voice occasionally comes across as simply girlish. Li’s lyrics also suffer from bouts of “confessional, repetitive” adolescent angst, said Emma Pearse in New York. But the way she puts them over testifies to her potential. Li can “sing extremely high and extremely quietly without losing the melody,” and she delivers even the most puerile lines with the “casual bohemian confidence of singers like Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush.”
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