The Swedish, worldly version of The Mountain Goats.Secret Canadian, 2017
Purchase: Secretly Canadian / Amazon
7.0 / 10
If you’ve missed out on Jens Lekman so far, well, you’re in for a treat. He’s a Swedish pop artist with more of an interest in telling stories than crafting radio-friendly soundbites. Maybe in Sweden they only have record stores filled with David Byrne/Talking Heads and Sun Kil Moon releases. Somewhere between these two strange reference points, Lekman has carved out his home base in modern music. He has the world-music taste of Byrne, and the same clean, disaffected tenor, but where Talking Heads were interested in skewing the lyrical conventions of soul, punk, or pop, Lekman works in narratives, more akin to Sun Kil Moon. But hey, he (or his lyrics) can’t be that much like Sun Kil Moon because after listening to Life Will See You Now, I didn’t want to throw myself in front of a garbage truck.
And I mean that in a good way for both Lekman and Sun Kil Moon.
Life Will See You Now, as the name suggests, is an album about people on the cusp of adulthood. The most clear of these stories being the opening track, “To Know Your Mission”. In the song, Lekman follows a young Mormon preparing for his mission, an idea here that is both literal and metaphorical. Its melody is bright and sweet, and Lekman points out that there’s no other feeling in the world like “knowing your mission.” This track is as strong a pop tune as it is a thesis statement for the album. The tracks here all have varying shades of the same theme: stories of people who are about to, knowingly or not, pass into the next stage of maturity.
That’s just the lyrics, though. Most of Life Will See You Now is a sampler of sounds from different parts of the world. A little South American woodwinds on “Wedding in Finistere”, Italian strings on “How Can I Tell Him”, and Caribbean steel drums in “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?” The purpose of this variety is twofold: on occasionally, it matches up with the song narrative’s location, and it “spices” up the album. You’ll notice the snarky quotation marks here, added because these worldly flavors don’t do the meal any good. You know how it goes — some chef wants to put their own unique spin on a meal, so they add, for no real reason, a certain spice, seasoning, or garnish, just for the sake of it. Life Will See You Now doesn’t need these garnishes, and at best, they help the listener differentiate the songs from one another, but at worst, they’re unnecessary and obvious. Does Lekman not trust his own voice and words to be enough?
“To Know Your Mission”
“What’s That Perfume That You Wear?”
“How Can I Tell Him”