landscapes of love
The wreckage of heartbreak can ignite a swelling of memory that oscillates between pain and yearning, rejection and lust – and with her latest album EYEEYE, Lykke Li drives us deep into heart of that emotional ruin and rebirth.
Across five albums, the Swedish artist has taken us through constellations of sound ranging from folk to R&B, pop, dance, and trap – all while pondering the shards of a broken heart. With her first album since 2018’s So Sad So Sexy, the visionary songstress now moves into an intimately stripped-down soundscape. Befitting cathartic lyrics that place the remnants of a broken relationship under the microscope, vocals were recorded in Li’s LA bedroom on a handheld 70 dollar drum mic, capturing the raw emotional pulse of each breath. “I wanted the record to have the intimacy of listening to a voice memo on a macro dose of LSD,” the musician expands.
As a full sensory audio-visual experience, the record is accompanied by a series of seven short video loops directed by Theo Lindquist and shot on 16mm film by Edu Grau. These videos mirror fragments of memory, without a beginning or end. Scenes of a burning car, bodies swirling and morphing together in a red room, atmospheric night drives – these loops are souvenirs from a greater story.
J.L Sirisuk: This is your first album since 2018 and life has certainly changed since then. How did you know it was the right time to create this work?
Lykke Li: You go around paddling in fear for a moment where you’re like, I don’t think I’ll ever write something again. I don’t know how I will be in the place again to even want to have so much to say and chase a vision. The reason why I put No Hotel on the album is because of those opening lines: “There’s no hotel/No cigarettes/And you’re still in love with someone else.” I was like, “Oh, shit. Okay, now we’re in the beginning of something. I want to tell this story.” Once you start, you’re chasing this metaphorical thing through a forest. That was the moment I started making the album. After that, you’re just trying to give birth to what it is you’re seeing.
JLS: The album feels very intimate and cinematic. What was the writing process like on this album?
LL: I always write what I’m living at the time. I was carrying this very heavy love story and it was very dramatic and painful, so I was trying to put words to what I was feeling. I also wanted to make a sonic album where you very much felt and saw the story, the circumstance and also the room. I saw each song as a scene.
JLS: You also brought in Björn [Yttling] to collaborate on the album – what was it like to work with him again, and what did he add to the story?
LL: I think he’s the vessel to help me get there melodically. He’s there with chords and structure, but I told him it’s a very specific story I’m trying to tell. Anything that kind of veered off from the story, I was like, “But it’s not the story. It’s not the movie.” So we were really strict in what made it on the album. Every note, every melody every pause, every drum had to carry the story.
“What is complex, is that when you’re an artist it’s not black and white. It’s me, it’s a character – you put in everything you have of yourself…”
JLS: Where did the recording take place?
LL: I recorded it at home while I was bleeding with emotion. We would sit – he [Yttling] would have a guitar or a synth, and I had a handheld mic. As soon as I finished the lyrics, I was like, “Let’s just put one down.” It was bursts of emotion that became the album, so actually all the takes are my demo vocal and then we added synthesisers and drums after. It’s very much the immediate response.
“It was bursts of emotion that became the album”
JLS: You mentioned each song being a scene in a film – in terms of emotion was it a blending of fantasy or reality, how much was the character and how much was you?
LL: When you’re an artist it’s not black and white. It’s me, it’s a character. You put in everything you have of yourself and when you’re there, you’re like, “But maybe I’ll cut my hair off and become blonde.” So it’s like you’re experimenting with different parts of yourself while you’re there, but one thousand percent of everything is me, then I decide what I’m revealing.
JLS: When you started writing the album, did you know there would be a visual component?
LL: That came later – you have to be present for each step. While I’m writing, I’m only focused on trying to get the best prose.
JLS: When did you decide to add these visuals?
LL: I think it was when I was starting to produce – when you start painting the sonics. I would start having visions of like, “Oh, I see this.” I was telling Theo [Lindquist] about it and then he came up with the idea, “What if we tell your whole story, the whole movie, but only do it in seven key scenes that loop infinitely.”
JLS: What did you try to bring to the aesthetics?
LL: It’s like, how can we cram in as much texture, emotion, beauty, pain, aliveness into it and how can we also tell the story? Then you try to really push the limit of what you can do in that world.
JLS: Was it set in LA?
LL: It was at the Latvian Center because in a dream world I would have gone back to Europe. For me, it was a European love story, so if I could I would have gone to Europe but we were stuck here during the pandemic. We shot it in LA but I also wanted it to very much feel like an internal journey, like the space didn’t really matter, it was the landscape of love.
Still, ‘Highway to Your Heart’
“All you can hope is that it touches you somehow, that it soothes you and offers you some type of escape from the ordinary life. That it takes you somewhere.”
JLS: How did it feel to be in front of the camera, was it a different kind of emotional release?
LL: Yeah, I was also very nervous. I was like, “Can I do this?” It’s very raw being in front of the camera, so I was really scared. I’m not a trained actress, I was like, “Will I be able to convey emotion in that world?” I was really, really nervous, but once we cast Jeff [Wilbusch], he was so good and so present, it was really just me and him going for it. We created our own world in front of the camera. It was very beautiful.
JLS: Was there a moment when you felt what you were filming was really bringing life to a track?
LL: When we filmed The Carousel we were stuck in that red box for two days, and that was really trippy because we were trying to just capture the climax of love – it’s a carousel that traps you. It became really meta, it was a very gruesome but intimate process.
JLS: What do you hope people take from the full sensory experience?
LL: All you can hope is that it touches you somehow, that it soothes you and offers you some type of escape from the ordinary life. That it takes you somewhere.
JLS: Having put so much of yourself into this album, how does it feel to listen back to it?
LL: I haven’t done that. You listen to it so much when you’re mastering and mixing, once it’s done you finally let go. Now I’ve spent a lot of time talking about it, so I’m still in that process. I’m curious to see what will happen with some distance and time.
Lykke Li EYEYE is out now.