Jens Lekman is certainly lacking his usual wryness and wit in these ten tracks of heartbreak and acceptance. His last album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, managed to be both eclectic and convincingly sequenced into a brilliantly sweet and funny collection of songs. Lekman considers I Know What Love Isn’t to be his debut, since it is the first to be recorded cohesively as such, unlike Kortedala which was a collection of songs he had accumulated over time. The cohesiveness is both this album’s strength and weakness: whereas you could usually dip into the recesses of his discography guiltlessly, there is a strong narrative of love lost in these ten tracks that encourage a complete listen through.
A good contemporary reference point for this album’s sound outside of Lekman’s discography is the recent lounge-pop (sounds horrifically dull, but give it a chance!) stylings of Kaputt by Destroyer. Though Lekman’s lyrics aren’t anywhere near as interpretive or diverse, the surface similarities are there. Jens also possesses a voice not utterly dissimilar to Morrissey, and this comparison extends however tenuously to the wry storytelling of both musicians. As previously mentioned, Jens Lekman is much more prone to saccharine arrangements that he succeeds in tempering with self-deprecation and comical observations. Unfortunately, his usual lyrical strengths are somewhat absent from these songs, though the occasional turn of phrase is a reminder of what his song-writing abilities are capable of.
In terms of the song arrangements, ‘The World Moves On’ is the only one not complimented by its flabby six minute song length, though its smooth chorus contains the record’s lyrical crux: ‘You don’t get on from a broken heart; you just learn to carry it gracefully’.
Lekman is at his best on this record when he panders to the listener with melancholy chords that so directly resonate. His technique may lack an experimental subtlety that we would be quicker to deem ‘interesting’ or unique, but quite honestly it is Lekman himself who conveys the likeability to carry the sometimes overly MOR arrangements. The most unashamedly enjoyable and schmaltzy moment comes with ‘The End of the World Is Bigger than Love’. Whilst its chorus is articulated with a certain amount of emotional ambivalence, there’s no denying that it could easily be configured into a foghorn-voiced Celine Dion ballad. Especially if you replaced the jaunty piano and strings with an irritating Guetta-beat and Dion herself placed arms aloft on yet another doomed CGI cruise ship: coincidentally, Lekman’s lyrics in this song allude to the end of the world as being ‘bigger than an iceberg’. Just saying…
Overall then, this is a good set of songs and though it doesn’t quite hit the eclectic highs of his previous full-length album, it hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for whatever Jens has to say next about life’s little foibles.
This article was first posted on September 14, 2012