Both light and shadow tackled with deft grace and detail...
'Life Will See You Now'

There’s no other way to describe this than utterly life-affirming pop music. Jens Lekman doesn’t shy away from the dark stuff, but actively tackles it – with such deft grace and detail that you find much to celebrate in both the light and the shadow.

From opener 'To Know Your Mission', an existential crisis wrapped up in the soundscape of a particularly indie musical, we know we’re tackling some fairly chunky themes.

‘Evening Prayer’, the second track, is even starker in its adherence to the Brian Wilson ‘happy music/sad lyrics’ pop formula. It’s that most unlikely of specimens - an effervescent sherbet-pop song about a cancer scare that’s utterly infectious and disorientating.

It’s an album of sweeping gestures and high romance. ‘Hotwire The Ferris Wheel’ begins with some surprisingly robust beats, before swelling into a sweeping, heady tribute to being young, reckless and in love. “Let’s get ourselves in trouble. Let’s do something illegal” Jens urges mischievously, just before he commits the ultimate act of twee vandalism.

Unexpected musical influences and unlikely juxtapositions abound – to mixed success.

Occasionally, it works – like on ‘What’s That Perfume That You Wear?’ a calypso-tinged love song with the tropical appeal of a diluted Um Bongo. But by the time you’ve hit the light jazz horns on ‘Wedding In Finistere’, you may be displaying signs of fatigue.

There’s a lot of experimentation – and sometimes it feels jarring, like Lekman is riffing on too many divergent influences. It feels tiring to sit with, and can leaving you wishing he’d flesh out the ideas or buckle down to a uniting theme.

What a tonic then, when ‘How Can I Tell Him?’ swings around. It’s a simpler arrangement, and with the heart-chugging swell of a sonorous cello, we’re back on gorgeous, melancholic musical terrain. It’s one of the stand-out tracks, then, on an album that occasionally feels uneven but is executed with such heart, joy and vigour that it’s difficult not to love.

8/10

Words: Marianne Gallagher

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