Album Review: Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn’t

12 September 2012 | 11:45 am | Katie Benson

Musically, it’s an effort that soundly embraces elements of easy-listening.

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Girls, girls, girls. Their names, cars and body parts litter Jens Lekman's third full-length studio album, but one suspects they're all just slices of one actual girl who's responsible for this oddly joyous break-up album. Filled with references to the Swede's time in Melbourne, each song, either abstract or straightforward, inevitably revolves around the trappings of failed love.

Musically, it's an effort that soundly embraces elements of easy-listening. Far beyond standard guitar-backed balladry, Lekman astutely weaves in flourishes of strings, harp, flute and sax that lift the sad subject matter out of the mud and adds musical light to Lekman's lyrical whimsy. The prevalence of the pop backing vocals is also reminiscent of early '80s work of Elvis Costello, a man also known for his mastery in word play.

There is always a childish delight listening to Lekman's lyrics, in figuring out how his focus on the odd minutiae of life ends up painting broader life lessons, and while the tales here aren't as comical as in previous efforts, the quirky imagery is as strong as ever. In The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love, Lekman advises the broken-hearted that life goes on: “And it's bigger than the spider, floating in your cider/And the Flatbush Avenue Target, than their pharmacy department.

Lekman comes on more direct in tracks I Want A Pair Of Cowboy Boots and Every Little Hair Knows Your Name, both dripping in melancholy and accompanied by stripped-back and delicate guitar. Thankfully, the bright pop of the title track, I Know What Love Isn't, lifts the end of the album with hope, humour and a nod to Holdens.

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