Who: Indie-pop chanteuse Lykke Li, a worldly Swede whose infectious debut *Youth Novels* was buzzing long before its Stateside release in May.
Sounds Like: Dance music with a devilish wink. With production by Bjorn Yttling, Youth Novels's sugary pop, biting lyrics and breathy vocals make heartbreak sound sweet. "I just do music, I don't know where it comes from or what it is," says Li, whose influences include Madonna, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan and hip-hop, of her spontaneous blend. "It just is."
• The daughter of "free-minded old hippies," as she calls her parents, Li, 22, grew up between Stockholm, Sweden, and a mountaintop home in the South of Portugal where "You can grow weed in the backyard," she recalls of her unconventional upbringing. "Maybe you're not allowed to say that?"
• Though Li's sexy, quirky moves have evolved since her days dancing in a Smurf costume at the mall at 14, Li doesn't like to categorize the many ways in which she expresses herself. "I just move, I wouldn't even call it dancing. It's just letting go of emotions," Li says, though she's not shy about getting down. "If I'm at the club, I'm the nastiest one on the floor, doing really weird dancehall things."
• At 19, Li left Stockholm in search of her dreams at New York open mikes, living in a windowless apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, until her visa expired. "I feel at home where people are warm and open-minded, I'm freezing a lot in Sweden so that's why I don't like it," she says. "Everywhere I go, I never feel at home." Back in Sweden, a frustrated Li started her own LL Recordings last year and released an EP featuring her first hit, "Little Bit," which catapulted her back to the States, this time for a tour. "It's surreal," she says.
Hear It Now: Youth Novels is in stores now, and you can check out "Little Bit" and "I'm Good I'm Gone" in our video, above.
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