Jens Lekman releases ‘I Know What Love Isn’t’ – his first full -length album in five years – on Secretly Canadian on 31 August 2012.
The follow-up to 2007’s critically acclaimed Night Falls Over Kortedala, the new album chronicles the bittersweet pursuit of love; familiar territory, one might say, for the Swedish musician.
Taking comfort from Oh, The Divorces, a song written and dedicated to him by Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn – “Oh Jens, Oh Jens / your songs seem to look through a different lens / you’re still so young, love ends just as easy as it’s begun” – her missive to him proved a defining moment, arriving at a time when he found himself confused and in doubt. He was changing and, subsequently, so were his songs.
I Know What Love Isn’t came out of a break up, something Jens didn’t see as worth writing about initially. But the songs began taking shape from images and memories. In The World Moves On, he paints a picture of a sweltering summer in Melbourne where he lived whilst making the album. The hot days that led to the Black Saturday bushfires, feeding possums in the a park, getting into trouble with some guy on a scooter, all played their part. As Joan Didion said that she writes entirely to find out what she’s thinking, Jens wrote until he caught up with his thoughts, leading him inevitably back to the break up.
Musically, I Know What Love Isn’t chooses an economic route. From the vast palette he created for …Kortedala, he’s chosen a few starker colours this time round. There are strings, but no string section, an upright piano – not a grand, a single saxophone and grace notes from a flute. As Jens explains – “I wanted the songs to take off almost unnoticeably, where the chorus is separated from the verse only through a small detail like a tambourine or a harmony”. A country-fied piano makes Become Someone Else’s rise up; vocals from Melbourne singer Sophie Brous makes the chorus in Erica America soar.
In the title track, Lekman distils the essential truths from every day life vignettes whilst singing about a sham marriage. “I thought of the Friday nights when I’d be cruising up and down the street with my best friend in her crappy old Holden, talking about getting married to get me into the country. That we could build this constructed relationship around a purpose rather than some vague feeling that could change at any time. But in the end, the sham marriage is much too great at story to be kept secret. At least when you make a living from telling stories”.
I Know What Love Isn’t tells a story which isn’t new – but which is essentially human. It tells of the grey areas of love that you have to excavate and explore, using the method of exclusion, to truly discover what love is.
A Grammis nominee three times over in his native Sweden, Lekman released his first album – When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog – in 2004, attracting accolades worldwide. Over the ensuing years he’s made a wealth of material, from collaborating with fellow countrymen Jozé González and El Perro Del Mar, and with uber-fan Tracey Thorn, to contributing to an eclectic choice of compilations and releasing his second album Night Falls Over Kortedala. He’s toured in various guises – as a solo performer, with a choir and string quartet, with an all female back up band and most recently as a duo.