Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn't
There are two kinds of modernity. One references the futuristic, while the other is informed by the past. The Swedish bornJens Lekman belongs to the latter group, employing a kind of Occam's razor principle to his work. Simplicity is best: harmonisation, traditional instruments and an essentially economic approach to music. On I Know What Love Isn't Lekman has tailored this philosophy to tell the story of a broken heart, set in the Melbourne summer of 2009.
The album begins with piano solo before seamlessly transcending into the Spanish style guitar driven 'Erica America'. Homogeneity is something that Lekman wanted to capture, giving the album a 'suspended in the air' feeling, "I wanted the songs to take off almost unnoticeably, where the chorus is separated from the verse only through a small detail like a tambourine or a harmony." There are no forced peaks or troughs in I Know What Love Isn't, Lekman hasn't tried to capture sonic variation. It's best to think of this aspect of the record as a 'sonic concept album': a carefully thought out agenda to make something that is effortlessly consistent in sound but not boring.
Other qualities such as texture, pitch and tone engineer the variant elements of the album. From the juxtaposition of Lekman's almost complacent baritone and the jolly flute on 'Some Dandruff on Your Shoulder' to the melancholic breeze, tinkered with an occasional 'drip' sound of 'She Just Doesn't Want To Be With You Anymore'. But such is the album's commitment to homogeneity; these elements are only subconsciously picked up. It's the kind of album, though simple and economic, that will expose something previously unheard after every listen.
There aren't many who are able to take the most mundane elements of life and make the endearing, but Lekman does (and always has done) just that. In this case, he limits figurative speech to detail the beatings of a broken heart. People enjoy lyrically abstract concepts; writing for some artists represents the ability to go beyond the accepted lines of peer-to-peer discussion. But Lekman basks in realism, taking clear-cut conversations (that you can imagine he's actually had) and putting them to music, unmodified by poetic licence. On 'The World Moves On', Lekman details the Black Saturday bush fires that swept Melbourne without dramatization. Like a conversation with his listeners, he chronologically outlines the events of that day through his eyes, "At the social club I met some friends who were friends with this girl …we made out in every bar in town, while the state of Victoria burned down to the ground." It's this almost tragic, blasé approach that makes Lekman's music so endearing.
The final track 'Every Little Hair Knows Your Name' captures the physical manifestations of heartbreak, acts that seem so universally understood, "I started working out when we broke up/ I can do one hundred push ups/I could probably do two if I was bored." With not frills, its neatly concludes the intentions of I Know What Love Isn't'. Presenting something that is raw and stripped back, free from the 'all mod cons' music philosophy that is sometimes equated to being, but isn't necessarily, modern and fresh. 4 years gone, and Jens Lekman offers us something that is equally stunning and humble.