Release Date: Sep 19, 2011
Record label: Secretly Canadian
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Swedish Pop/Rock
This may sound like a bold pronouncement, but Sweden’s Jens Lekman (let’s ignore that he’s moved to Australia for the time being, shall we?) is this generation’s Bob Dylan. Just as Dylan weaved his way out of acoustic folk into electric rock music, and then took a mad dash into country, Lekman started out with heart-on-his-sleeve confessionals, then nudged himself into baroque pop (even going so far to sample the Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee” for his song “Maple Leaves”) and his most recent records, 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala and his new EP An Argument With Myself, have found themselves grounded in twee and—would you believe?—Afrobeat and reggae (among other things) respectively. What’s more, Lekman has a gift for spinning forth a narrative yarn, much in the same way Dylan can gracefully unspool a coherent story in as much time as he feels like telling it, and Lekman knows his way around a twist, or a bon mot when he sees it.
Of all the loveable things about Jens Lekman, my favorite is how he tosses banana peels on the paths of conventional taste. Seldom does such wonderful music sound so comically awful when you try to describe it to someone. "Man, he's amazing, like Neil Sedaka with a bit of a head cold singing over the Love Boat theme song." By the time you get that far, dude is already backing away slowly.
We’ve yet to see the proper follow-up effort to his 2007 master stroke, Night Falls Over Kortedala, but this new five-song EP should be seen as an essential release for devotees of Swedish singer/songwriter Jens Lekman. Full of the poppy arrangements that characterized his last album, there’s enough of Lekman’s trademark wit and self-deprecation on display in this 17-minute set to remind listeners of his status as one indie music’s best storytellers. The EP leads with its titular track, a frantic chronicle of a drunken stumble through the streets of Melbourne.
As with a number of artists who released decent music between 2003 and 2005, I originally came to Jens Lekman via LimeWire. And consequently started to adore him because of a somewhat arbitrary set of songs, their source unclear, stacked in an order determined by iTunes and a set of electronic factors invisible to the naked eye. In fact, the random scatter of Jens was so enjoyable, I didn’t get round to buying When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog, his first proper record, for several months.
Coming almost four years after the release of the excellent Night Falls Over Kortedala album, Jens Lekman's 2011 EP An Argument with Myself is made up of five songs that according to Lekman didn’t fit the mood of the songs he’d been working on for a full album. Those songs must reflect the more somber and soulful aspects of Lekman’s work because the songs on the EP represent the upbeat, almost chirpy side of his musical personality. The title track has an undulating Afro-pop rhythm and an ultra-twee lyrical construct that has him arguing with himself as he walks down a Melbourne city street at night.
I figure Jens Lekman is about the only person who could get into an argument with Jens Lekman. The titular track on the pleasantly soft-spoken Swede's latest EP, An Argument With Myself, details a fractious internal dialogue to try to get on with life after a ruined relationship. It also features a clever arrangement of the bright, generous hooks we've come to expect from Lekman.
If you pit an artist who emphasizes on big statements against one who bemoans his woes on minutiae issues, you’re sure to a get a contradictorily mash of ideas drawn from one or the other. Jens Lekman strikes a balance between both – he amuses himself by broadening the habitual with sophistication whilst winking at the listener with his matter-of-fact ruminations, all while displaying a corny-but-proud fondness for the ostentatious. He’s the equivalent of the character actor, always nibbling around all corners of the screen with foremost presence even if his name is hard to catch.
It’s difficult to criticize Jens Lekman on grounds of awkwardness or insularity; he’s never exactly been circumspect about those traits, but Lekman’s new EP find him in an even more exaggeratedly stilted, self-amused state than ever. An Argument With Myself certainly lives up to its title, with Lekman allowing his smoothly crooned melodies to be tripped up by the tangled threads of his conflicting thoughts and blurted feelings. Whereas self-deprecation was once among his most endearing qualities, now Lekman comes off as debilitatingly insecure.
He knows great stories can be found in even the smallest moment. Charles Ubaghs 2011 Try summarising Jens Lekman in Tweet form. If you’re familiar with his work then you’ll end up with something like the following: "wistful, 30-year-old Swedish indie songwriter; likes Jonathan Richman, girls, self-deprecation, heartbreak and slightly gauche pop music." It’s a perfect storm of twee, and Lekman does little to disprove it, with a telling quote – "The way her shadow used to walk by her side, in a different time, a different city" – splayed across the cover of this new EP, An Argument With Myself.