Album Review: Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

One day I was sitting in my shitty little apartment, in Los Angeles, before I moved to San Francisco. It was a dingy little shithole off Sunset, but I loved that apartment. There really was nothing to love, except that it was mine and I didn’t have to worry about coming home to roommates copulating or doing blow or waking up at 4am because they had inspiration for a song for their awful hair metal band. This particular day, however, I received a strange email from a friend that’s subject was: Call Me Al.

Intrigued I opened the email and all it said was, “Jens Lekman is a fucking genius.” and it had an Mp3 attached. I downloaded the Mp3 and it was this Swedish artist named Jens Lekman covering Paul Simon’s classic ’80’s track “Call Me Al”. Say what you will about ’80’s Paul Simon, but man I dug that era for him. Such cool music, eminently catchy and totally singable for tone deaf shower singers like me. As I listened I was surprised that he never once mentioned the name of the song. He never sang the chorus, “You Can Call Me Al”. I couldn’t understand it, but was delighted just the same. He had not only covered a great song, but totally changed it to make it his own.

I furiously took to the interwebs to find out who this man of mystery was. I took the usual routes: Wikipedia, artist websites, message boards. Who was this guy and when was he coming to the U.S.? There were times in the past few years that I wondered when his next album would come out for the express purpose of seeing him on tour. That is, assuming he would come to whatever neck of the woods I was living in.

Then last week he came out with a new album and I was excited to see if it was as good as I had hoped it would be. Expectations are a bitch. When you really like an artist the anticipation of a new album can make expectations become almost unrealized no matter how good the album is because of the weight of those expectations. Making something you enjoy yourself is hard enough, but exceeding everyone else’s expectations is damn near impossible. That being said I Know What Love Isn’t is a masterful work of musical craftsmanship.

In his first full album since 2007, Lekman takes bits and pieces of inspiration from the  60’s to the ’80’s and merges that with his own successful style of folksy jazzy rock. In “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots” it seems straightforward, but when you are plagued with the same dream over and over again, that recurring dream that becomes a maddening, nightmarish loop, you simply want something to take your mind off of that dream and what it means. Then you realize that the dream, that has become a nightmare, is a relationship you’re in and all those hours you spend walking off anger, lead you to want something to ease the metaphorical pain of your feet as a conduit to ease the pain of your heart. Much like in Bob Dylan’s song, “Boots of Spanish Leather”.

Lekman writes songs from the heart, from everyday life and through those experiences we get a little insight into what makes Jens Lekman so perfectly relevant.

Jens Lekman much to my elation is currently on tour. He’ll be at the Fillmore on November 5 with Taken by Trees.

I Know What Love Isn’t is available here.

Here is the song that started it all for me. I hope you enjoy it as well.

You Can Call Me Al – Jens Lekman

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