On election night in America, with Barack Obama the president once more, Jens Lekman took a euphoric crowd and sent them straight to heaven. I Know What Love Isn’t, his first album in five years and his sharpest end-to-end collection, is my favorite album of the year; critics who spat it out like crumbled cheese may have forgotten that music is improved by beauty, not just noise. And Love is his prettiest album, a fact made clear by his band on Tuesday night, which included horns, a violin and ceaseless enthusiasm.
Lekman’s set reconciled all of the Swedish musician’s various identities: the sincere bedroom boy, the globe-trotting dancer, the sad clown, Sinatra bantering at the Sands. Few musicians, not even Taylor Swift with her best Grammys face, can muster the simultaneous levels of innocence and cutting self-awareness that imbue all his songs. He played the hits, though they all are, really: “A Postcard to Nina,” “Black Cab,” “Maple Leaves,” “I Know What Love Isn’t.”
The mid-set dance party portion of the evening rode hard on his Night Falls Over Kortedala material, as most of his recent tours have, and it would’ve been nice to hear “Erica America” make an appearance. Still, he played a stirring version of “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots,” the new album’s highlight, and began and closed the set with versions of the sad-eyed “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name.” Lekman’s catalog is now so strong and vast that four-hour Springsteen theatrics wouldn’t be out of the question, but on Tuesday, with a room content with the world’s direc-tioooon, two encores would have to suffice.
I Know What Love Isn’t is out now on Secretly Canadian, wherever perfect records are sold.