Review: Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

 

It doesn’t seem that long since we last heard Jens’ brand of melancholic Swedish pop, but that may be because 31 year old Jens Lekman is an artist that just never stops making music. With the single The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love in 2010 and An Argument With Myself EP in 2011, as well as numerous collaborations and contributions over the years, Lekman is rarely without something to please his fans, and now, as surprising as it seems, he is back with only his third album I Know What Love Isn’t. And, for all you fans of his love-hating cynicism, you aren’t going to be disappointed.

It’s obvious from the off that Lekman lives by an ‘if it ain’t broke’ kind of outlook, never giving up his wry and sometimes painfully truthful style of songwriting; even the opening instrumental Every Little Hair Knows Your Name, a transient piano piece, has a deep tone of sadness to it. This bursts straight into his usual (and I say usual in a good way) conversational wit in the form of Erica America, a love-story full of regret in which Jens sings: ‘I wish I’d never met you, like I wish I’d never tasted wine’, a sigh-worthy track full of Spanish sounding guitar arrangements, crash cymbals and a wonderfully uplifting saxophone solo. The album, thematically and stylistically, carries on seamlessly as Become Someone Else’s masks the hopeful voice of a boyfriend clinging to love with a joyful piano melody and plaintive strings which forebode the sad ending we have come to expect.

The reason I became such a fan of Jens is because, despite the downhearted messages in every song, there is such a naked honesty to him, which, on some level, makes them all incredibly relatable and therefore more enjoyable. She Just Don’t Want To Be With You Anymore is quite devastating, and the kind of song that you believe may be grounded in truth; this and 2010 single The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love are – and I’m sure this isn’t just me – more like epiphanies, as you come to realise all the Disney films and cheesy love songs have made you more naive than you thought. These charmingly realistic insights into the perils of love begin again with funky, finger-clicking The World Moves On, in which hides Lekman’s message that ‘you don’t get over a broken heart, you just learn to carry it gracefully’, and, more importantly, that whatever happens ‘the world just shrugs its shoulders’. Anyone who can make those thoughts enjoyable is doing a good job in my books.

With I Know What Love Isn’t, Jens has shown his great aptitude for making love-songs for people that don’t like love-songs. Album closer and second part of the opener Every Little Hair Knows Your Name, is the gem of this album and the perfect example of his speciality, as he attempts to get over a lost love by doing sit-ups and playing guitar. His non-chalant dismissal of the good things in life, endlessly stirring arrangements and well-disguised optimism are continually and oddly appealing. Thankfully Lekman stays downhearted enough to keep making the same, great sardonic pop music that reminds us that love can be bad, but hey, it’s not the end of the world.

Josh King