Posted by: Necci – Oct 12, 2012
Jens Lekman has become popular over the years for his candid storytelling. Each lyrical tale is littered with clever quips, unique tropes, and familiar settings. There has always been a candor that lent itself towards being a bit more lighthearted. Perhaps that is why I Know What Love Isn’t is an important record for this artist’s career, as well as a record that will certainly divide audiences.
Lekman finds himself delving into the breakup record territory. The stories told on I Know What Love Isn’t are vulnerable, unsettling and emotionally traumatizing. With titles like “Become Someone Else’s,” “She Just Don’t Want To Be With You Anymore,” “The World Moves On,” and the title track, it’s easy to see the direction he takes with this release. His lyrical wordplay is still a wonderful asset, and considering the subject matter, it’s an even greater testament to how versatile of an artist he is. Another valuable quality the record has to offer is its instrumentation. By continuing to exist in a familiar musical realm, the songs still feel right at home in the sonic universe that Lekman has established for several years now. String arrangements, accompanying brass, and focused rhythmic guitar patterns help to offer an intriguing counter to the album’s subject matter. Yet, it never usurps the intentions that Lekman had to present his audience with his most revealing record to date.
“The World Moves On” is easily one of finest moments on I Know What Love Isn’t. Musically, it has a more traditional Lekman style. Lush surroundings only temper the mood of the track, in which Lekman goes through the withdrawals of a relationship ending. This track seems like the one that will help listeners decide if they are on board with I Know What Love Isn’t or not. Each moment is finely dictated and can resonate with any listener. Instances like the attempts at being friends after a breakup, or admitting that you more or less cope with heartache as opposed to overcoming it, are the stock that Lekman pulls from throughout. These are the musings of the same man who existed in past recordings such as “Your Arms Around Me” and “Shirin.” Now, he is left broken and battered from the self-inflicted emotional trauma that has left him a shell of his former self.
This record doesn’t seem to be intended to offer a therapeutic solution. It’s meant to offer a glimpse at what can become of anyone when they are abandoned by what comforts them the most. In this case, it’s the presence and love of another that slowly dissipated. It’s those glances and observations, the brief moments in which you can see a relationship fall apart, as well as the struggle to recover a semblance of an independent self at that point, that make up the core of Lekman’s songwriting on this release. It reminds me of the depths Okkervil River successfully reached on their seminal release, Black Sheep Boy. It’s in these attempts and risky reaches for deep emotion that an artist can truly soar. We were already well aware of how intriguing and phenomenal Lekman was, but no one could have predicted he was capable of putting out an album like this.
I Know What Love Isn’t won’t be for everyone, and it might take a while for some of Lekman’s fan base to come around to it. It’s an intense release about the haunting feelings attached to the aftermath of a relationship going south. Perhaps the strongest thing that can be said about this release is that in the midst of its sadness and sorrow, Lekman is still capable of creating something beautiful. I Know What Love Isn’t is another strong example illustrating Lekman’s penchant for storytelling, and proves that he deserves all of the acclaim that he has been receiving for years now.
Jens Lekman will perform at The National, located at 708 E. Broad St, on Saturday, October 13, along with Taken By Trees and Big Search. Doors open at 7 PM, admission is $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased at the National box office, or online by clicking HERE.
By Shannon Cleary