Lykke Li is taking a decidedly low-key approach to her career.
Though the 22-year-old Swedish singer already has an ambitious new album, “Youth Novel,” completed and released to rave reviews in her homeland, as well as loads of attention from major American labels, Lykke Li has decided to introduce herself to America with an EP “Little Bit” on her own label, LL Recordings.
“You have to take me bit by bit,” she says, with a laugh, calling from a tour stop in Manchester, England. “That’s the way I like to enjoy things. I think it’s hard for some people when a whole album’s thrown in their face. I want people to discover me, if they want to, with a small introduction.”
After all, there are plenty of ways she could make a good first impression. There’s a touch of Eastern influence in the sweet pop of “Little Bit.” She builds up a nice little groove in “Dance Dance Dance.” And there’s all-out Kate Bush falsetto in the gorgeously breathy “Time Flies.
“I try to take everything I love and just put it together,” she says. “All the songs are based on my own experiences and I just try to find the right sound for it. So I think, `Oh, this song I want to sound like Elton John.’ Or `This song I want to be like Nina Simone.’ Or `This I want to be a hip-hop track.’ I just try to go with the flow when I’m in the studio.”
For Lykke Li, the important thing isn’t big opening sales weeks or top chart positions, but the ability to keep making good music. That quest is what has led her to return to America, where she once spent three months when she was 19 living in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, singing at open mikes. She returned there last year to wrap up work on “Youth Novel,” which she expects to release in America in August.
“All the songs were done before I went there,” Lykke Li says. “But I think New York definitely influenced the soundscape of the album and the feel of it. When I was there, I was out every night, taking in all these impressions.”
She says her first trip to America was patterned after Madonna’s move to New York right after high school.
However, Lykke Li says the Material Girl is more of a cultural inspiration than a musical one. “I admire that she acted a certain way, the way she played with being a woman and acting like a man, taking whatever she wanted. She changed the way that people look at female artists onstage and that, to me, is cool.”