Monday, September 03, 2012

JENS LEKMAN I Know What Love Isn't

You don't get over a broken heart / you just learn to carry it gracefully". The theme of the fourth album – or rather ‘collection’ - from globe-trotting Swede Jens Lekman is never in doubt. “I Know What Love Isn’t” is most definitely about heart-break: nine tracks plus an opening instrumental prelude that gently, lushly unpack reflections on, and feelings of, loss and the end of romance. I had heard before listening to this record that it was ‘stripped back’ but don’t expect harrowing Josh T Pearson style acoustic renditions. True there are less samples and less instrumentation than on its immediate predecessor “Night Falls Over Kortedala” but the full-blown orchestral swoon of ‘The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love’ could easily find a home on that record. Elsewhere wispy flute or glossy saxophone can be found plus elegant aching strings underscoring ‘The World Moves On’ and the title track. It’s also not stripped back as in simplified: the shifting time signatures and patterns of ‘Erica America’ with its ornate alternating arrangements of sax, piano and strings verge on cumbersome.

Rather this album is stripped back of some of the wry humour and debonair chic of earlier collections, displaced by a sense of palpable sadness. The lonely image on the cover is the most distant Jens Lekman has appeared on one of his records; ironically because musically it feels closer to the man behind the lovelorn, selectively loquacious troubadour. “I Know What Love Isn’t” re-kindles the emotional, quiet intimacy of early songs like ’The Cold Swedish Winter’ or 'Someone To Share My Life With' but here saddled with wearied experience and a heavier heart.

Although gently mournful this is not a depressing record. These sob stories and not-so-bitter reflections contain trademark witty story-telling and domestic detail a plenty and there’s an undeniably upbeat cheerfulness in the latter half of the album with ‘The World Moves On’ and ‘The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love’. The lines from the latter on charting dimensions are particularly sublime: “And it's bigger than an iceberg / Than the plume of a geyser / And it's bigger than the spider / Floating in your cider / And it's bigger than the stock market / Than the loose change in your pocket”. And the boast about push-ups in ‘Every Little Hair Knows Your Name’ is incongruously hilarious despite the hushed pathos.

We’ve heard similar songs from Jens before in his career but this time it feels more genuine, more personal; his arch, knowing smile is a little crumpled, somewhat downturned and with no let up from this mood over thirty nine minutes. Its delicate lushness is appealing but I’m not sure based on these tender, earlier listens that this is the record I’d introduce a non-listener to the world of Jens Lekman (unless they were a mildly masochistic depressant) but for converts it’s a fascinating and essential insight. And damn beautiful music. The highs - ‘The End Of The World..’, ‘Becoming Someone Else’s’ and ‘Every Little Hair Knows Your Name’ – easily stand alongside his best song-writing. Oh You’re So Heart-Broken Jens.

Jens Lekman I Know What Love Isn’t [BUY]

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