REVIEW // Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now

Jens Lekman

The fourth full-length record by Swedish musician Jens Lekman is a pleasantly catchy collection of indie pop, drawing from a diverse range of influences and styles.

With the current era of pop music taking on a predominantly electronic texture, it’s always a nice surprise when artists take a decidedly more old school approach to songcraft. Life Will See You Now by Jens Lekman boasts a colorful variety of live instruments and performances. Vocal harmonies and clear, crisp melodies permeate each track. Eschewing the usual punchiness of a usual pop record, the album takes all the time it needs.

Funky disco rhythms, melodies and guitarwork percolate throughout most of the tracks, with influences as far flung as Britpop, calypso, and lounge music. The tracks gently establish themselves in your head, never imposing, and it creates for a pleasingly peaceful listen. Pianos and steelpan melodies sit comfortably in the spacious arrangements, with each element and instrumental beautifully embedded in the mix. That’s one of the most apparent strengths of this record – without the electronic elements, there’s no need for distortion or muddied sonic textures. Everything just sounds smooth.

What is clear from the record is that Lekman is clearly a gifted multi-instrumentalist, and he combines his breezy vocals with a multitude of equally breezy sounds, creating something that never sounds laboured or strained. However, it is this effortless sense of froideur that makes many of the songs largely indistinguishable from one other. There’s a gentle irreverence and melancholy to the lyrics, but he never appears to be expressing any strong emotions or themes, or least none that I cared enough about to pay attention to. Lekman is clearly more concerned with staying within his comfort zone – although, given his skill as a musician and songwriter, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

What is apparent is that throwback music has notably gained traction over these past five years, and as someone who spends more time forcing himself to enjoy the latest music trends than actually enjoying them, I can’t say this is a bad thing. Life Will See You Now, in essence, is the perfect embodiment of what throwback music is. It doesn’t aim to break any new ground, to push boundaries, or to challenge you. Its best and worst quality is that it simply sounds nice… the kind of unambitious nice that you’re bound to hear at some pretentious food festival filled with live jazz bands and armies of hipsters.

THE BREAKDOWN:
Based in: Gothenburg, Sweden.
Sounds like: La Roux, Todd Terje.
Say what? Jens Lekman was born in Angered, a suburb of Gothenburg. Whether that describes the permanent emotional states of its residents, I do not know.

Over and out, Darren.

One comment

  1. Hi there – I read this review with interest/trepidation as I had a strong emotional connection with one of Jens’ earlier songs, “Maple Leaves”. It probably helped that it was on a mix tape, as that always gives a different context to songs, and puts them outside an album. I wonder if he’s veering into blandness -I hope not! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VN3Mus6dig0 I know he spent some time living in Melbourne, and find him most engaging when he’s upfront about feeling like an alien and not 100% getting people speaking in English: “she talked about Mark E Smith, I never understood at all”. It’s kind of funny, kind of hopeless, and without the cheerful sound it would sound different, probably oddly earnest.

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