While Sufjan Stevens has been writing epic albums about motorways and learning those irresistible dance moves, Jens Lekman has been harvesting his own gem. Four years after ‘Night Falls Over Kortedala’ – a beautiful arrangement of sweet, witty songs devised and narrated so effortlessly – Jens has returned with an album of similar ilk.
‘I Know What Love Isn’t’ brings back all those shy, sweet collections and adds Jens’ unique twist on life. And while Jens remains quiet on record, on stage he brings a natural ease to his performance.
Joined by an inventive keyboard and small band, each song still manages to bring the orchestral carefree rhythms and light layers of the record while highlighting Lekman’s unique vocals. Showcasing ‘I Know What Love Isn’t’, the band are a little unsure, with the billowing levels creating more of a social club atmosphere in the claustrophobic Ruby Lounge. The honky-tonk piano drowns the instruments in ‘Become Someone Else’s’ as Jens quietly cuts through the accompaniment.
It takes ‘The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love’ to unearth a previously untapped onstage persona. Using his descriptive lyrics to paint the broken hearted, he’s then so sweet to even dedicate a song to the person who caused the broken heart (‘Some Dandruff on Your Shoulder’) to the joy of the audience. Following anecdotes about stalking Kirsten Dunst (‘Waiting for Kirsten’) an extended, beautiful rendition of ‘A Postcard To Nina’ leaves you daydreaming, taken adrift into the dinner party scenario.
‘An Argument with Myself’ is a fast, hilarious account of mental torment with ‘Sipping on the Sweet Nectar’ raises with an uplifting chorus and cute melodies. Similar to Sufjan, Jens also cuts and chops his own work to transform into an electro remix. Sweet, heartfelt songs become jerking dance rhythms and looped beats. Yet Jens manages to balance both meticulously. The feelings of that social club band vibe also melt away as the performance enhances and soon there’s little difference between the keyboard and a full orchestra.
While many of his contemporaries offer remixed tracks and elaborate sets to keep an audience interested there’s something extremely genuine about Jens Lekman. With his unassuming musicians each song comes with such picturesque lyrics that every four minutes you’re left smiling as another scenario unravels.
Each story comes with a tinted viewpoint which fills you brimming with a new lease of life – even when you’re wet, in a basement in Manchester.
Words by Ruth Offord
Photo by Michelle Heighway