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Breaking Artist: Lykke Li

June 25, 2008 11:50 AM ET

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."

Vital Stats:

• 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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