Sweets from Sweden

by Beacon Staff • April 2, 2008

A song on Jens Lekman's 2007 release Night Falls Over Kortedala entitled "Your Arms Around Me" adequately sums up who the twenty-seven year-old Swedish pop singer is. The track opens with strings, chimes and a thunderous backbeat before Lekman begins singing about preparing an avocado in the kitchen. As he slices the fruit, his love interest approaches him with new sneakers that are too quiet for him to hear. She gives him a surprise hug causing him to slice off the tip of his finger. "From your mouth speaks your lovely voice," he sings, "The best comments I've ever heard/'Oh honey, you've cut off your finger/ I bet that's gotta hurt.'" Lekman exists in his own world of deadpan stoicism and keen observation, and his music is delightful enough to likely stay imbedded in your brain for days.

In Sweden, Night Falls Over Kortedala reached number one on the charts, and Lekman's name is now slowly making its way into American music blogs and periodicals. His music consists of samples, guitars and backup strings, and his lyrics are usually coated with sophomoric irony. On April 4, Lekman will be performing at the Paradise Rock Club and it is certainly worth seeing if you can scalp a ticket to the sold-out show.

For a preview of what is to come, there's a video on YouTube of Jens Lekman performing "A Postcard to Nina," also off of 2007's Night Falls Over Kortedala, in Melbourne, Australia. He nervously tunes a ukulele before beginning the song, stopping every now and again to address the audience with hesitant laughter. It takes him nearly a minute to tune it, and as he does, he quietly murmurs into the microphone, "Having fun?"

He's playfully candid about the origins of his songs. "A Postcard to Nina" is based on a true story in which Lekman's friend from Berlin, Nina, needed to convince her father that she was straight by bringing a fake boyfriend home for dinner. "Your father is a sweet old man/ but it's hard for him to understand/that you wanna love a woman." In the song's lyrics, Lekman agrees, and the date is underway.

The song's dinner date charade then takes a turn for the worse. "I get a little nervous and change the subject/ I put my hands on some metal object / He jokes and tells me it's a lie detector."

On stage, Jens smiles innocently as he stumbles over the lyrics, forgetting them more than once. The crowd laughs and cheers in delight. Lekman's tongue-in-cheek attitude is infectious. He's bubbly, cordial and, given his desire to tell these stories to strangers, sounds like someone you'd find yourself hanging out with in the hookah bar of a town you'd never visited before.

The song's dinner fiasco has meanwhile gotten out of control: "Hey! You! Stop kicking my legs! / I'm doing my best/Can you pass the eggs?"

"A Postcard to Nina" comes to its deacute;nouement as Jens informs his friend Nina that, even now, her father is contacting him "Your father's mailing me all the time/He says he just wants to say 'hi'/I send him 'out of office' auto-replies."

Those expecting an ending as smug and as self-assured as the rest of the song will be interested to learn that the final line pulls the rug from beneath your feet and promptly catches you in a pillow of surprising warmth: "Nina I just want to check in/'Cause I think about you every second/So I send you this postcard just to say/Don't let anyone stand in your way/Yours truly, Jens Lekman."

There's an inherent innocence to all of Lekman's songs, but they never stumble into complete camp, allowing Leckman to exist in his own world rather then just satirically commenting on it. His live shows, as exemplified by this YouTube clip, illuminate his refreshingly carefree and eccentric on-stage persona. Because of all this, it's almost impossible to avoid getting swept up in his sound, style and character.