The U.S. release of the Little Bit EP, which saw its digital release via iTunes on April 20, doesn’t make the song “Little Bit” any more available than it already is. Indeed, a lot of the pleasure of the song comes from the variety of ways one can encounter it online: I found it on Sasha Frere-Jones’ Imeem mix, but it’s been syndicated through every other possible channel for streaming media. This release banks on the aura and durability of the song and makes the transition from the digital ether to the physical artifact mostly unscathed.
The Swedish singer’s design choices for this four-song EP and the full-length it anticipates, Youth Novels, is clever, translating the groundswell of online support for “Little Bit”–one of the best songs of 2008–into physical releases that borrow the aura of secondhand books. The songs that back up the single are promising, but they’re minor pleasures in comparison.
“Dance Dance Dance” has a tough job in following “Little Bit,” and its shortcomings throw the single’s qualities into relief. “Little Bit” is about something many individuals find out as they transition into adulthood: That repression can be as satisfyingly coy as purging is satisfyingly excessive. The song’s lyrics, and its marriage of Casio hip-hop and a Swedish obsession with melody, speaks from the kind of public/private space where MySpace comments live. Lykke Li’s singing, with its self-conscious incompleteness, is self-affirmation that’s based equally in pretend adultness and the kind of immaturity any 22-year-old still feels entitled to.
The subject of “Dance Dance Dance” is also communication itself–what we can and can’t say to the other person and why. In this case, it’s shyness: “Easy conversations, there’s no such thing,” Lykke Li sings with more than a trace of resignation. Ultimately, the speaker falls short of convincing herself that dancing makes up for verbal communication; the hopeful chorus and not-quite-there melody fall short of giving the song a sense of completeness.
The single picks up again with “Time Flies,” a hushed song with a melody that’s only a little more solid than necessary. Lykke Li pitches her voice toward raspy air, not full sound, and comes out with something like her own version of Björk’s worried, beautiful “Anchor Song.”
If “Little Bit” alone wasn’t proof enough, this EP demonstrates that Lykke Li is an overachiever. These four tracks are the cardinal points of her debut album, and we can look forward to Lykke Li covering a lot of territory with her Youth Novels.