Jens Lekman

Dalliance Review of 2011 More

2011 Review Your Attention

Written By Michael Wood Monday, January 9th, 2012

Eight Albums

  1. I Am Very Far - Okkervil River
    The best live band you will see doing Rock n' Roll shows have put out an album that shows the emotional range of one of their performances. Weaving between melancholia and pumped guitar stylings I Am Very Far is a band hitting the targets that it sets for itself, and very high targets those are. Lyrical, intelligent, excellent.
  2. Welcome To Condale - Summer Camp
    Out of the ethereal and onto record it has taken a long time for Summer Camp to emerge after some curious shows and a few hints towards obscurities. What emerges is an album recollecting a time not lived in a place that probably never existed but with a feel that is universal. Songs of heartache and loss are always played out well to a catchy beat.
  3. (I Can't Get No) - Stevie Jackson
    Or, if you will, the guy out of Belle & Sebastian doing his own thing and doing it so very well. The references are sixties pop of course but the immediacy of the guitar driven pop and the cute smartness of the lyrics are surprisingly effective.
  4. Nursing Home - Let's Wrestle
    It is thrashing guitars and sarcastic lyrics but that has never been something that upset me and Nursing Home manages not only to power through its running time in an indecent haste but also includes some laugh out loud funny moments. Superb.
  5. Collapse Into Now - R.E.M.
    Or if you will the end of an era. The last R.E.M. is another addition to the catalogue that adds breadth but lacks the depth of the earlier work of legend. Still a cracking listen and they will be missed.
  6. Obscurities - Stephin Merritt
    A collection of Merritt's offcuts from projects is always going to be a sketchy affair but the great stuff is really great stuff.
  7. Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010 - The Radio Dept.
    A singles collection, so perhaps it should not count, but unseen by most this Swedish band have been making a cerebral music that aches with a heartbreak unspeakable.
  8. An Argument with Myself EP - Jens Lekman
    An EP is half an album so Lekman only gets half points for this brilliant collection of songs about friends dying, getting lost in Melbourne and looking for movie stars in Sweden.

Four Tracks

  1. Hanging From A Hit - Okkervil River
    Will Sheff's lyrical masterpiece in two parts is a rock and roll's sexual predatory instinct hitting hard and cruel into a real life. Searing, dazzling, and darkly beautiful.
  2. Walked Out On a Line - Okkervil River
    A band so good they can leave this story of drug fuelled destruction on the shelf as Will Sheff and Co reference the sound of the Beach Boys while creating something utterly new. Key Lyric: In the storm's scream and swirl's/Where I spotted my girl/I was pinning her straight to my side.
  3. Waiting for Kirsten - Jens Lekman
    Lekman's true story of trying to meet Kirsten Dunst in Gothenberg uses the Swedish singer's favourite trick of lulling the listen in with a dry humour and twisting that humour into a thoughtful depression. Key Lyric: But the VIP lines are not to the clubs/But to healthcare, apartments and jobs./"Hey buddy can I borrow five grand?/'Cause my dad's in chemo/And they wanna take him off his plan."
  4. In Dreams Part II - Let's Wrestle
    Mayhem on a record. Key Lyric: In my dreams there were Pokemon beating me up/I punched Pidgeotto right in the face

The valiant failure of Jens Lekman More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The Blow and Jens Lekman at The Deaf Institute, Manchester

The Blow are not really a band but one would hate to make Khaela Maricich suffer the tag of performance art. Innovative, perhaps to a fault, Maricich's spares vocals over a dance beat accompany a kind of storytelling which veers between believability and fantasy and is all the more entertaining for that. Tonight she relates how she wrote songs for an actress turned singer in New York and the relationship she had with that would be performer and in doing so plays with the notion of the construction of performance. Gradually reducing her attire from baggy top to leotard the affect is a little bit like a confessional Jane Fonda workout video.

It is entertaining, and in its way far more enlightening than one would expect.

The affect of Jens Lekman is always provoking. The Swede folk-popster pours his heart into his performance and seems to bleed emotion from the stage. Tonight he has a full band and a couple of Saxophonist - I may be alone in questioning the merit of the Saxophone in pop - picking out the melodies of his often soft, reflective tunes. As always Lekman is a joy to listen to throwing a few new tunes into the mix alongside staples of his set - would he ever not do Black Cab? I do hope not - and seems to breath a uniqueness into each performance.

Lekman continues the gig over the road at another bar after curfew at The Deaf Institute, and then goes onto the street trying to elongate the still moments his songs attempt to encapsulate. Night falls, the attempt fails, but valiantly so.

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Tonight, Mr Jens Lekman. Tomorrow, Mr Jens Lekman More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Friday, May 16th, 2008

Jens Lekman and Jayman at The Cluny/TJ's Woodhouse Grove Liberal Club, Newcastle/Leeds

"If you have videoed tonight - which is fine with me," says Jens Lekman after an enthralling night at The Cluny in Newcastle "then do not put it on the Internet or on YouTube because I want this night to be between you and me."

Jens Lekman is an honest man in what is a dishonest industry.

Every night on stages across the world artists pour souls into the same unique displays that they give the night before and will give tomorrow. This suits some performers and but not others and Lekman - following his path of attempting to not play the same venue in the same town every time he visits - is uncomfortable with the four month touring fatigue he and his five musicians are trying to avoid. "If there is a button to press, a rope to pull, then do it" he tells his band.

He wants every night to be special, unique, individual and for two nights in Newcastle and Leeds - fulfilling a long time curious interest of mine - I will be watching both gigs.

The cluny on the banks of the Tyne on the way to Byker in Newcastle is a superb venue. The horseshoe shape of the bar that turns into split level stage and watching balcony not only affords a great area to watch bands but also has a decent place to eat and drink.

The effect of this is a location that - to the casual observer - does not have to make it's money through what is on stage and can survive as a pub. A look down the list of forthcoming events empathises this with a collection of the esoteric such as Lekman coming to the North East in the next few months.

New York songstress Jaymay is on first and as the bright evening is beginning to fade she takes to the waist high stage that is overlooked from the left and begins to storytell. Her guitar picks and strums a pattern behind her stories of love and loss in New York City.

She sings songs with rich textures, each is distinctive and each pushes back against the folk scene that would want to swallow up singer/songwriter girls who play guitar - she was dubbed "anti-folk" at one point - and it is not hard to see why Lekman is touring with her when she starts each song with an antidote or story about it's conception.

"Jens' audience is so polite" she comments before detailing the genus of Ill-Willed Person - her stand out song and the story of not wanting to be friends with the ex of an ex. "Love everything you always loved" is a charming sentiment and Jaymay has succeeded in charming those watching with an honest connection between song and singer. Between story and stage. It is warmth.

In Leeds the night that follows she has changed her top - I did but spilt coffee on the replacement so am back in a Pantone 292 t-shirt - and changed the set list.

The Leeds audience start in the far off drinking area of a Working Men's Club before approaching the stage slowly in a way that must be reminiscent of the zombies in Dawn of the Dead and while they crowd the stage they are more reserved and emotionally seem more distant.

The same set list Jaymay scribed while waiting near the bar at The Cluny sits next to her chair at the front of the stage but she soon begins to move from it and throws in The Tragedy Song which features a sing-a-long chorus and some audience foot stamping and I wonder if this is because she felt more connected to last night's people and could fore-go the gimmicks or if she felt closer tonight and thus could have more fun. Perhaps the groundhog day nature of touring demands that you change at least one thing a day.

The last time I saw Jens Lekman he was accompanied by a percussionist in a church in Leeds. In Newcastle now he stands on the stage with a laptop user/DJ type person as his small figure in the centre of the stage begins his most sombre song. I Am Leaving Because I Don't Love You sees the Swede push out two heartbreaking verses before he is attacked on stage with an array of chellists, violin players, drummers and bassists who are his band and it becomes clear that tonight will not be a repeat of Leeds 2007.

Curious hardly covers Lekman the performer. He has the same kind of magnetic charisma that a Morrissey or a Jarvis Cocker has which pushes a brittle confidence and a self-depreciation into his gigs. He tells us about Kortedala - the suburb of Stockholm he has lived in - where he was beaten up and mugged "constantly" and he seems pathetic but his eyes shine out as he plays honest and beautiful songs. The ode to his hairdresser from Kortedala Shirin has tears dwelling in eyes.

And there are works of power and majesty. Streamed from a cello and driven by a powerful bass Black Cab once again inspires awe and surpasses the original and new song New Directions shows an continued ebullience. Lekman at these points is as Jarvis is on Common People or the Morrissey of Death of a Disco Dancer as he takes a captious view at life putting himself above all and finding all wanting.

Last time he played the North East Jens Lekman was at The Sage in Gateshead. "Now I am in Newcastle, this is a difference that is important" he intones sweetly as he continues his set that concludes when his band depart the stage and he is left clicking his fingers in accompaniment of Pocketful of Money and the clicking leads to Lekman asking all assembled to whistle the hook which leads to deep voiced Geordies backing the singer in a moment of spontaneous, disarming, wonderful improvisation.

Lekman is moved. He asks us not to share, he goes for a walk by the Tyne. He is on stage in Leeds 22 hours later and things are different. The storming of the stage is gone and the beginning is moved to the centre of the set.

"The last time I was here I played in a church didn't I?" he asks to confirmations. "I thought it was here" he noodles as he continues. The depths of Woodhouse Liberal Club are far from full - a disappointing turn out - and the atmosphere slips away a little but still Lekman is the focus of all around him. Maple Leaves is received with rapture Leeds but I'm Leaving... seems to hang around the room more begging to be plucked from the air.

The repetitious nature of night on night performance is obvious. Postcard To Nina comes with a narrative which he uses to parody the repartition. "Tell that story again Jens. I've Told It So Many Times... Yeah but just once more..." "Tell it again Jens cause last time was in Gateshead and this is Newcastle..."

Perhaps a less honest performer can work this kind of enforced duplicity better but Lekman - as with Jarvis Cocker during his two date stay in Sheffield two years ago - is exposed for all and the soul of the performance comes from each carved, honest, beautiful song.

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I Still Remember, I Will Still Remember More

Live Review

Written By Michael Wood Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Jens Lekman at Trinity Church, Leeds

There is an A-Board outside an urban church in the middle of Leeds City centre opposite a barbers shop that charges three times the cost of a ticket for this evening's entertainment for a short back and sides and time passes in fashionable bars waiting for the doors of the church to open.

The A-Board reads: "Tonight Jens Lekman" and tonight can never be as good as one hopes it will be.

Swedish songster Lekman is playing just two headline shows in the UK - one in London and another here at Trinity Church - and while the capital may offer a venue or two this religious venue seems to suit the man who is so unassuming that when he approaches the stage - the alter - that he is mistaken for a guitar technician.

Out of the neon and black night of the middle of Leeds dodging tieless smart suit wearing people enjoying a Liverpool game after work the queue for the Trinity files orderly into the church selecting seats on pews. I'm struck by how long it has been since I went to church - I'm Catholic - and start to wonder if should he play Black Cab would the lines "Oh No, God Damn" be included.

Lekman is a slight fellow and he stumbles to the area in front of the alter as a general mumbling pervades the room. He begins to strum a guitar and soon forms a tune and mumbles drop to silence and in the heart of this plastic City there is an outbreak of honesty.

Jens Lekman, a guitar, later a percussionist and an hour or so of pooled honesty.

Drawing mostly from his recent release Night Falls Over Kortedala Lekman comes over as a thin voiced raconteur picking out stripped down versions of his compositions and detailing them with additions. Postcard To Nina comes with a good few minutes extra storytelling and one half of the audience laugh madly while the other have a hushed reverence and both are appropriate.

Postcard To Nina comes after Lekman has won the crowd - the converted - following his steadily acoustic And I Remember Every Kiss and the meaningfully bitter Black Cab that formulates into a long moment this reviewer will live his whole life without forgetting.

There is a personal significance Black Cab for me - Michael Wood - and suddenly I am struck by how Jens's twee edged tunes are to be taken to heart. The refrain of Black Cab - "You don't know anything/So don't ask me any questions/Just turn the music up/And keep your mouth shut." - sits carved in my heart in a way that only the most honest, truthful stories can be. Into Eternity - which also gets played tonight - swells into my life in similar ways.

It is honest music. It is music not to like but to love.

An overlong version of Sherin risks losing a doe eyed audience but a melee of priceless songs surround it - The Cold Swedish Winter has a brilliant insert about Cliff Richard(s) and I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You breaks every heart - and when Lekman departs his return is demanded.

An encore covers party song A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill - the clear refrain "I still remember Regulate by Warren G/It was in the summer of 1993/On Hammer Hill" is to die for - and after three songs the Swede takes a richly deserved bow before casting his eye past the pulpit. "I could play the organ for you, most of you won't be able to see me."

And he plays Tram #7 To Heaven and it is beautiful in the way that nothing else in this soulless metropolis can be. The piped sound of an organ drifts away into the night as soon will Lekman and his audience - his devotees - but the experience fills a flickering heart and keeps it warm on the way home.

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