Jens Lekman returns with an album of amalgamations from his former records — enjoyable, knowable, yet it also lends a somewhat disjointed listen.
April 28, 2017 | by Amanda Scigaj
Life Will See You Now
Secretly Canadian, 2017
I once said “Jens Lekman is the hipster Barry Manilow.” Despite the 20-odd Facebook Likes that statement received (and my total ineptitude on any instrument), Lekman continued to cast his net wider for influences and emotional purposes, over various projects beyond his 2007 breakthrough Night Falls Over Kortedala. This included a sea change of more somber releases like 2012’s I Know What Love Isn’t, and 2015’s ambitious Postcards endeavor where he wrote, recorded, and released one new song every week for the entire year. After a half-decade hiatus, Lekman has finally returned with a proper album, Life Will See You Now, which often showcases different sides of his musical prowess without an obvious trajectory.
Dear listener, don’t assume the opener “To Know Your Mission” sets expectations for the rest of the record — an introspective lyric wondering the purpose of everything aloud is juxtaposed with what sounds like a discarded Wham! song. Bolstering the narrative of the (assumedly) young Lens talking to a Mormon Missionary, are explicit references to the dominating pop culture of 1997: Chumbawamba, Puff Daddy, Princess Di’s death. If Lekman were a woman, he’d likely be branded “twee” with such a hyper-referential opening salvo. The sentiment metastasizes in the following track “Evening Prayer,” which opens with LouLou Lamotte providing upbeat doo-wop backing vocals beneath Lekman’s narrative croon about a friendship, a waitress, and a 3D-printed tumor.
What Lekman has before, and continues to master, is deftly juggling his wildly diverse genres of musical expertise. “What’s that Perfume that You Wear” is a standout, weaving different instrumental flavors together with his lush vocals to vividly evoke how a scent alone can trigger a photographic memory.
Life Will See You Now is proudly an album of contradictions, a collection of upbeat, dancier songs against darker, more introspective ones. The two songs included from his Postcards project perfectly exemplify this dynamic. “How We Met, the Long Version” (formerly known as “Postcard #29”) spring-loads soaring disco reverberations against the narrative of evolution, history, and one ultimately simple origin story: how Lekman and his current partner met. “Postcard #17,” name unchanged, embodies the latter; making palpable the bottomlessness, frustration, and near self-hatred of one’s inability to create.
Perhaps "To Know Your Mission" is the correct song to lead with after all, as Lekman doesn't know his own with this new album. Life is pulled into several directions; partly towards the upbeat, should-shaking tracks that harken back Night Falls Over Kortedala, while retaining plenty of the languid I Know What Love Isn't. After a year of immense productivity, Lekman has generated a trove of work, even if he still has unfinished business.