I Know What Love Isn't
In his much anticipated follow-up to his 2011 EP An Argument with Myself, Jens Lekman’s I Know What Love Isn’t hobbles the line between melancholic and cheesy. There’s something about this album that I want to love, in part because the Swedes always make me feel like the joke’s on me if I don’t “get it”. While this is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Sweden’s artistically driven pop scene, this full length album is hard to digest in its entirety.
With that said, there is dream-like element to I Know What Love Isn’t. Frequent interludes of flutes, saxophones, piano, violins, guitar (and yes, synthesized aquatic-noises) make for an interesting ride: one that has you questioning if Lekman is laughing at you, with you, or maybe not at all.
The album starts (and ends with) the song, “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name,” a sweet, little piano introduction followed by “Erica America”—the song title alone should bear some light on Lekman’s humor. But it’s lyrics like, “I wish I never met you, like I wish I’d never tasted wine or tasted it from lips that weren’t mine” that make me lose interest, quickly. The juxtaposition of the lyrics and the horns make for a contrived feel that continue to raise the “Talented? Obnoxious?” question—which, while may be the point, borders on unpleasant. (Granted, there are reasons he’s been compared to artists like the Magnetic Fields and David Byrne.) Humor and craftsmanship aside, it doesn’t exactly translate into an album that I care to listen to straight through, or consistently.
There are a couple standouts on the album, the aforementioned “I Know What Love Isn’t”, and “The World Moves On”; both chalk full of jostling flutes and inane banter about his days (quite literally). “Become Someone Else’s” shows his superior knowledge of and talent with idioms and tangents to weave a story. From a writing standpoint, this is organic storytelling at it’s best.
Recently Lekman released a music video for the single (sharing the same title as the album), “I Know What Love Isn’t” which best exemplifies what we’ve come to love Lekman for: witty songwriting paired with a dreamy beat, mixed with that dry minimalistic sense of humor––perfect for these hot, lazy, summer days. There’s something about watching him that makes him more enjoyable––“Phewph, he’s definitely laughing with us,” (okay, yes, and maybe a little bit at us).
It’s not that Lekman has produced something drastically different than his An Argument with Myself EP––fans will be pleased with his consistent, yet evolved sound on the album––it just seems that brevity was in his favor on the EP. This album, in full, borders on one long Kermit the Frog cover of James Taylor doing “Pure Imagination.” [C+]