Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Swede Jens Lekman charms his audience with heartfelt lyrics and pretty melodies

Photograph by Nate Koschmann

Friday night at Logan Square Auditorium, Jens Lekman, the highly personal and accomplished songwriter from Sweden, turned the fashionably cynical into a sea of dreaming eyes and serene smiles. Six girls and one guy, all dressed in white, Swedish peasant outfits, joined him on stage. It was oddly reminiscent of Zoot, her twin sister Dingo and the all-female residents of the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, feeling a little like being enchanted to a far-away land. All the better to explore the lyrical, fantasy world of kind-hearted Jens.

"We could have wild wild parties in that big old lodge
And the windmill's perfect for movies and such
We could fake our deaths and take the insurance money,
And take on hippie names,
I'd be Snowphish, you'd be Sunny."

His music is a fresh world of harps and strings, samples of babies laughing, lyrics with stories and fantasies, quirks and nonsense, and at times pure insight. The melodies are full and confident, and what makes him trusting as a musician is that his persona is anything but. As he puts it on his latest album, "The best way to touch your heart is to make an ass out of myself." The thing is, that's probably true.

"I saw on TV this little kid,
Who had a pig for a pet.
His mom had once been attacked by a dog,
And the pig was the closest he could get.
This of course has nothing to do with anything.
I'm just so nervous when I'm talking to you."

His third full-length album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, was released in October, much to the praise of critics everywhere. Slate dubbed him a "fully realized pop genius." Pitchfork gave it a nine out of ten, a mark of rare precedence, calling him "an immensely talented artist." But is this sort of acclaim likely to reach the mainstream? Probably not. And maybe Lekman isn't for everyone, but for those who he is, what he's doing now suggests he'll remain a revelation for some time to come.

"Do you remember your first kiss?
Well how can I forget?
My hands still shiver from the very thought of it,
But sometimes I almost regret it,
Like I regret my regrets.
I see myself on my deathbed saying,
'I wish I would've loved less.'"

He closed the show alone on stage, playing Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" and then his own "Pocketful of Money." Without having been asked, the crowd was moved to sing multiple-part harmonies and snapped their fingers. Here, it felt like the perfect ending to a summer-camp day. He was singing the last couple songs at the campfire before the kids were sent back to their cabins. In this world, we could've loved less, but who would want to? - Fred Koschmann