This is a genius record. And it might not even be Jens Lekman’s best (which goes to show you how hard I’ve fallen for When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Blog…er, Dog). But it is without question the Swede’s most fully realized album, rather than being “just” a collection of songs – and this despite several of the tracks having been kicked around for a while. But enough of technicalities.
Night Falls Over Kortedala is a sumptuous feast of Bacharach-like chamber-pop crooning and – no kidding – Since I Left You beats, an album where live instruments and sample loops intertwine in crackling, indistinguishable low fidelity. It fully embraces the tropical sounds Lekman has long favored, from the palm-leaves-in-the-breeze backing vocals of the stripped-down “Shirin” (an ode to his hairdresser, whose heavenly hands are presumably pictured on the album cover above) to the Jobim-evoking major 7th chords of “Postcard to Nina.” And then there’s finger-snapping jam-and-a-half “Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig,” which sounds like the Jackson 5 as performed by the Jens Lekman 1. [Continue reading…]
As his most fully realized album, though, it’s also his most blatantly schmaltzy. The songs lay on more cheese than Mario Batali making lasagna. And it doesn’t always fit together: “Postcard From Nina” offers a sweet-sounding dialogue between Jens (filling in as Nina the closeted lesbian’s boyfriend) and Nina’s dad that shifts into an initially incongrous chorus of pumping horns and “Oh! God!” exclamations. You can learn to love it, but you have to buy into the guy’s aesthetic. It helps that he’s often offering genuine storytelling: If you believe the guy’s interviews, Shirin actually cut his hair and Nina is really a girl he met in Berlin.
Still, Lekman’s always been a master of balancing clever jokes and pop culture allusions with very serious songcraft, and he does falter here a few times as the music gets too goofy. There’s the totally unnecessary bridge of “Shirin” and the ridiculous goo-goo-gah-gah baby singer on “It Was a Strange Time In My Life,” on which the melody’s a little saccharine even for Jens. The several times he changes tempo, it’s a bad idea – then again, the trick works wonders on “Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo,” where Lekman trips over his words and runs out of breath, satirizing the bingo hall’s utter lack of excitement.
But hold on – I’ve spent too long criticizing the album when I should be shouting its praises from the blogosphere-tops. It’s just that you should know what you’re getting into with this record; if you’re already a Lekman diehard, you’ve love this with a vengeance, but if not, give it a chance. Or seven. This is easily a top 10 album for me, and right now, year-end top five doesn’t seem out of the question. Not when I hear the handclaps on the second chorus of “You in My Arms” or the strains of Lekman’s voice belting, Sinatra-like, “But I will never kiss anyone / who doesn’t burn me like the Sun!” on “And I Remember Every Kiss.” What did I say? Genius record.
Jens Lekman – “Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo”: mp3
(Night Falls Over Kortedala is due Oct. 9 on Secretly Canadian)
Previously: Jens Lekman, Left Banke Enthusiast
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