Jens Lekman Knows What Love Isn’t
I was living in Brooklyn in early 2004 when I first heard Jens Lekman‘s Maple Leaves EP. It was a brutally cold and snowy winter, and Lekman’s melancholic perspective hit me like an arrow straight to the heart. I felt a unique synchronicity with the Swedish singer-songwriter, who probably knew winters that were far more physically and mentally brutal than what I was enduring. “Black Cab” instantly became the soundtrack for my life in New York City; and, honestly, I don’t think a single day went by that year that I didn’t listen to that song.
Not long after my “Black Cab” infatuation, “Maple Leaves” and “Sky Phenomenon” — also from the Maple Leaves EP — entered the daily rotation on my iPod. While I felt some strange kinship with “Black Cab”, it was “Maple Leaves” and “Sky Phenomenon” that clued me into Lekman’s lyrical genius. The poetic wit and ingenuity showcased in these two songs quickly became one of Lekman’s trademarks upon the release of his first full-length album, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog, in 2004.
Another trademark that is noticeable very early on in Lekman’s cannon of work is the unconventional construction of his songs. Lekman plays mash-up artist, assembling a hodgepodge of beats and rhythms as backdrops for his lyrics. Even when the music is presumably performed by Lekman and guest musicians, it feels like a collection of samples. This makes for the most exciting aspect of Lekman’s live performances: observing as he pulls off the orchestration of his songs. Sometimes Lekman does this performing alone, with only a guitar and a CD player; he has also performed with choirs and/or string quartets. For his upcoming performance at The Mohawk (November 13), it will be my first time ever seeing Lekman perform with a traditional rock band.
Lekman is touring in support of his newest album, I Know What Love Isn’t, with his Secretly Canadian label-mate Taken By Trees, the solo project of Victoria Bergsman (former lead singer for the Concretes). There is also an aftershow with Belaire, The Sour Notes and Paul Banks & the Carousels.