Tier 3

music / / poetry / / philosophy / / -ology by Nick Courtright

Album Review: Jens Lekman’s Night Falls Over Kortedala

As a friend remarked during her first listen to Jens Lekman’s new album, “That disco shit ain’t gonna fly,” Night Falls Over Kortedala is a sea-swell of cheeseball bitten by a cavity-riddled sweet-tooth. And if this description sounds a snip over-the-top, so be it—this is an album comfortable in its own skin, a relic of another place and time butting its charms into the modern world on the strength of its own inherent likability and lack of pretension. Surely, with Lekman’s molasses voice bemoaning a love life in constant ruin (or perhaps merely suffering from a Jens-driven sense of overdramatism) while cradled between layers of strings or horns more familiar in a nursing home than in a modern-day dancehall, Night Falls Over Kortedala is an album abrasive only to the most cynical of ears.But, thankfully, those are just the cynical ears. Once the sugar and shock of the arrangements—as well as Lekman’s sometimes soakingly sap-tastic lyrics—have their chance to sink in from a few forced listens, Night Falls proves itself nearly the equal of Lekman’s eminently listenable breakthrough work, Oh You’re So Silent Jens. Where his breakthrough album—actually a convenient compilation of hard-to-find EPs—was rich with pop sensibilities familiar to American ears, this album leaves most of the rock’n’roll in the scrapyard, instead seeking comfort in a sound more reminiscent of Abba than The Doors.

Yet there’s an appropriateness to this, as Lekman is in fact every bit as Swedish as Abba’s chart-topping meatballs. And Kortedala is Lekman’s hometown, a place he has consistently maligned for much of the past year before recently changing his stance to the sort of begrudging acceptance and appreciation a twenty-six year old boy has for his halcyon stomping grounds. And rightfully so, as this album is draped in a distinctly European feel, with the pressure of being hip in the American way not even registering on the undoubtedly unhip Lekman’s radar screen…even as the notoriously opinion-shifting and fickle Lekman inches closer and closer to “heartthrob for the art girls” status with every new song about romance between the equally naïve.

Lekman, as in earlier work, is often at his best when he incorporates backup vocalists (or vocal samples) to offer counterpoint to his syrup-drenched vocals. And even when those backup singers sound like something out of a late-nineties Burger King commercial, as they do on the song “Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig,” one of Lekman’s strengths is his ability to fit seemingly dissonant voices together. And there are some lyrical gems in this album, including the relatable “I took my sister down to the ocean, but the ocean made me feel stupid,” and the comically straightforward “Most shy people I know are extremely boring.” Sure enough, when the always-sincere Lekman offers this judgment in one of the album’s best tracks (“It Was a Strange Time in My Life”), it’s pretty hard to disagree.

Ultimately, with the outdated, oddly-influenced, and often corny nature of his music, and even of his own voice, there is no denying that Jens Lekman is absolutely, positively, and most definitely not cool. But if you can get over the pervasive dorkishness of his style, you may just find that the album Night Falls Over Kortedala ain’t too fuckin’ bad.

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