Lykke Li

Swede smell of success. The Plug, Sheffield (September 29)

“My songs are a bit depressing. You’re not depressed, are you?” purrs Swedish starlet Lykke Li to a crowd that seems reluctant to warm to her charms early on. The solution, a ‘cover’ of Vampire Weekend’s ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ (the melody and one verse interspersed with lyrics from her own ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’), proves an immediate tonic but, really, her own material should be more than enough to hold any audience’s attention. And so it proves as next tune, ‘Little Bit’, leaves us in complete, silent awe, well and truly winning everybody over. One of the songs of the year? We’d say so. It’s no surprise to learn that Lykke’s teen idol was Madonna, because this is sleek, sassy pop of which the genre’s own queen would no doubt approve – ditto ‘Little Bit’’s lunch-threatening lyric, “for you I keep my legs apart”.

However, with just a black backdrop bearing her name and a three-piece backing band for company, it’s the singer’s voice that takes centre stage tonight and not some hammy, choreographed stageshow (Santogold, take note). Sure, she points and pouts, bounds around the stage and thrashes cymbals like a slightly mad person and, sure, she’s not unappealing on the eye, but it’s the songs that truly hold the attention here. And in a world where Katy Perry can launch a career off the back of a supposedly risqué hit about – gosh – lesbianism, it’s refreshing to find an artist with such a broad repertoire. Tonight, album tracks such as the brooding ‘Complaint Department’ (which is spiced up by KRS-One’s ‘Sound Of Da Police’ in the breakdown) and ‘Let It Fall’ are easily the equal of the poptastic ‘I’m Good, I’m Gone’ or ‘Breaking It Up’. They might well be depressing to their author, but we’re left with nothing but smiles on our faces. Lykke Li? More like Love-e Li.

Rob Webb