Jens Lekman- Life Will See You Now
Jens Lekman may be the most endearing musician working today (and he happens to be on Bloomington’s own label Secretly Canadian!). I’ve convinced myself it’s impossible not to love this man. I haven’t met a person who isn’t immediately captivated by his charming Swedish accent, multitude of samples, and stories of “pretending to be engaged to a lesbian so her conservative dad doesn’t find out she is gay” or “after getting arrested using his one phone call to call a radio station so he can dedicate a song on the radio to the girl he got arrested for”. His stories are often odd, long winded, creative, ridiculously Swedish, absolutely hilarious, and utterly heartbreaking in a way that only Lekman could pull off. Nobody writes a song like Jens Lekman. After his last album, 2012’s I Know What Love Isn’t, (a severely misunderstood and underrated record in his discography) received lukewarm reception (It was much darker than people were used to with Lekman), people were wondering if he could match the heights of his sophomore record Night Falls Over Kortedala. In my opinion this record is one of the best this century has to offer so far again. I never doubted him and this new record proved me right.
For most people LIfe Will See You Now will be seen as a return to form for Jens. I don’t think he ever left his form so let’s call it a continuation and even a growth of excellence. Before I start to gush over this record let’s set the record straight. This album isn’t quite as good as Night Falls Over Kortedala, but very very very very few albums are. A record this good in 99% of songwriter’s catalogs would be a career milestone, but this is Jens Lekman we’re talking about here. This man has a gift and we should all count our blessing that he’s willing to share that talent with the world. Who else would have the balls to sample CHARLES MINGUS (the piano on Postcard #17 is sample from a Mingus solo piano record) and then make it sound so damn good that you forget it was Mingus in the first place.
Alright, gushing about this record will commence now. If you like critical reviews find a different writer because it’s literally impossible for me to say anything bad about Jens Lekman, and I hope I can convince you to fall for this man as hard as I have.
Life Will See You Now is short semi-understated record. I say semi because the latin-and funk-infused grooves and uber twee hooks jump out at you. After I was done with my first listen I could distinctly remember each song, which is a very rare trait in an album. None of it melded together and it was all so sleekly written. But the real genius of this album unfurls itself over multiple listens. Every single lyric line on this album is amazing, or I’ve yet to hear one that isn’t. Every single time I listen to the album I notice multiple words or metaphors or jokes that I didn’t catch before and not a single one has been a miss. Jens proves you don’t need a long, grandiose, and overblown albums to make complex and deeply emotional statements. You just need to have some mean songwriting chops. Instead of going for big he goes for refined and the result is not a single wasted second in this 41 minute runtime.
The culmination of this ethos is “How We Met (The Long Version).” On this 4 minute track he tells the story of the universe. Starting with atoms and particles all the way up to when he asked a girl if we could borrow her bass guitar (“but not because (he) needed one”). Very few songwriters could even come up with such a witty and smart concept, but only Jens could make it work in 4 minutes. This may be the most expansive 4 minute song I’ve ever heard, and all Jens used to it was a disco beat, punchy horns and impenetrable songwriting.
The other two singles from the album are just as good and also some of my favorite tracks. “What’s That Perfume You Wear” is basically ‘Jens does sexy’ and boy is he sexy. A dark bassline and steel drums are all I needed to get me hooked, but his descriptions of smells are seriously amazing. “Pink Pepper”, “Lemon Ginger”, “Sandalwood” and “Lavender” are my favorites. I never thought I could smell a song before this song. It’s also his most dance-able song yet and boy does it groove. The other single is “Evening Prayer” which is much goofier but also emotional song. The song concerns two friends. One of which recently overcame a battle with cancer and the other not sure if he was a close enough friend to be there during the battle. The friend who beat the cancer just got a 3D model of his tumor printed and is showing it to his friend. While discussing the tumor they reveal to each other how they really felt. The friend with cancer saw how much the other friend cared and said it really helped him through his battle with cancer. The other friend discloses that during the battle he kept him in his evening prayer despite not knowing if they were close enough. It is a very reaffirming song and goes to show that just maybe being open about emotions can have a very positive effect on relationships. These are just my favorites and I could go on like this for all 10 tracks. They’re all equally good and are all worth your undivided attention.
Jens came through and he came through hard. You are doing yourself an absolute disservice by not listening to this. It’s a very short and easy listen so you have no excuse not to play it at least once. There’s so much here for everyone to relate to. I truly believe everyone can get something out of this record. Going forward I highly doubt we’ll be getting better songwriting from anybody this year.