Do I have enough coins for a cab fare down Elizabeth Street? Where can I find Kirsten Dunst? Is any of this madness really happening? Welcome to the waggish web that Jens Lekman has woven on his short and sweet An Argument With Myself EP. “I hate facts. All the facts. We know everything about something. I think it’s much more interesting if there’s a million different stories that completely contradict each other.” This is what he told a Portuguese music blog last year after one of his signature solo performances. To listen to his music is to be exactly where he was, in that moment, in that peculiar collision of space and time. This is what makes his seemingly ephemeral sonic snapshots stand the test of time — and after taking a glimpse into his fantasy world, you may never want to leave.
Each track is not just an abstraction, but situated in a very real topography, so much so thatLekman’s Smalltalk blog has a Google Maps screenshot that frames each one. “An Argument With Myself” is akin to his previous work, except with a much faster reggae tempo that gently propels the frenzy that’s racing through his mind. This groovy number pauses during the bridge so he can internally debate “Oh yes, can we just try and talk about this?/Can we just try and figure this out?/No, I don’t wanna talk to you (changes tone)/Okay, you want to keep on fighting...Yeah I wanna keep on fighting/Fair enough...1,2,3/” and then we’re back to the carefully constructed beat narrated by his David Byrne whimsy.
The groove keeps marching along on the bass heavy “A Promise”. The arpeggiated melody is something right out of an early Culture Club album; without all the noise and some superbly synthed-up violin and well timed keys. It’s very likely you will need some of the blood red wine “from the wine regions outside of Santiago, Chile” to get this delightful diddy out of your head — so innocent, so infectious.
Horns, backing songstresses, and noticeably different time signatures guide us along with our “New Directions”. ABBA wished they had a disco segment as sexy as he does halfway through, but it never gets in the way of a story that always keeps you guessing until it abruptly ends. It’s funny how in an interview with the A.V. Club he says “Sometimes I feel like I’m working on a sitcom or something. I almost see the little studio, and I think of it as a good comedy show or something like that.” Well, the opening bars of “So This Guy at My Office” (which is definitely a line you’d hear on a crappy sitcom) sound like a warped take on a daytime talk show theme, cheesy personalities, fake coffee cups, you get the picture immediately. The rest of it climbs down the bass fret very deliberately, before we hear the ominous jazz flute and croons of “I love you” oozing through the white collar artifice that’s slowly disintegrating before us.
Unlike most albums put out in these increasingly fractious times of ours, this one is not trying to change the world or even trap us inside some kind of avant-garde fortress we can’t escape. This is beautiful pop, simple and sonorous, that allows us a chance to pluck his vulnerable heart strings and wander through a vivid unassuming world.
Jens Lekman - An Argument With Myself EP
You can still download an mp3 of the title track here.