Jens Lekman
I Know What Love Isn't


4.0
excellent

Review

by robin EMERITUS
September 8th, 2012 | 25 replies | 7,282 views


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: but robin you didn't even talk about any of the music

I’m probably not quite with it to give Jens Lekman his dues, and for that I thank you, future run-ins with spellchecker, but anyway: of love songs, Lekman pointed I Know What Love Isn’t to break-ups, and speaking to Pitchfork claimed that a record centred around one is made by accepting, hand in hand with its listener, the pain of it all. Up until now, this is hardly the man we’ve known; the You’re So Silent Jens laughed, played maudlin piano trilogies about Rocky Dennis, and then dedicated retro dance songs to himself; the love-song aspect was there, but driving backseat to the witticisms and showy moments. Until now, Lekman has been the perfect performer and the ideal entertainer, to the point where he even pronounced “father” as “fadduh,” as if he was bringing up Camp Granada’s easy-humour on the indie spectrum. What makes I Know What Love Isn’t feel different is that the laughs reveal the romantic twangs a little after, like the joke that dies out to sad sighs; instead of standing by his Stephin Merritt, eye-rolling shtick, Lekman has made an album of sad love prophecies, focusing on the story of two people rather than the remarks of one. “The World Moves On,” his six minute dance anthem- given all its fun rock conventions- isn’t all that fun when you realise it’s genuinely about the world moving on.

What strikes boldest, then, is that there’s nothing particularly weird about Lekman’s music when it’s at its sincerest; these songs are those of a storyteller truly documenting, as well as he can, what has happened; “I Know What Love Isn’t,” the fullest, most conventional Lekman song to date, is based on his experiences of almost proposing to his friend for citizenship and completely non-romantic ideals. And it sums up exactly what I Know What Love Isn’t- I’m talking album, here- amounts to; the serious perspective of Lekman channelled, as per usual, through funny conversations (“do you wanna go see a band? / no I hate bands, it’s always full of men spooning their girlfriends?”) and musical arrangements that sound as funny. Here comes the flute solo! And so Lekman continues to borrow from his own long tradition- that it’s easy to laugh a problem off- but on what he considers to be his first real “album,” he also decides to examine it.

I Know What Love Isn’t is focused on what’s quixotic in the process of elimination- what makes Lekman tick, at this point, is writing big, romantic arrangements and having lines that demarcate: “let’s get married for the citizenship / I’ve always liked the idea of a relationship that doesn’t lie about it’s intentions,” he sings on the title track while it flourishes- the bravado of guitar smacking around verses and choruses, the violin swells and, yes, the flute solos, all celebrating little more than Lekman’s rational peace of mind. Or maybe I Know What Love Isn’t mourns the death of Jens Lekman the romanticist? Apparently, it’s the exact same guy, but using the same tools- marriage, violin swells- as sombre facts of life.

The album is the result of its own thought process, and ultimately becomes the most revealing thing Lekman has written, even if it is his most succinct record. Lines seem less about the big laugh, even in similar arrangements- “Erica America,” for instance, feels sad more than anything, and so a quiet line like “Sinatra had his shit figured out, I guess” is genuinely a quiet line. That’s something- I Know What Love Isn’t doesn’t try to be funny, because at times it really isn’t (a line from the same song: “Erica America, I wish I’d never met you / like I wish I’d never tasted this cheap wine”), and because, ultimately, the album isn’t constructed that way. Lekman isn’t necessarily an entertainer here: he’s a man of music blooming in corners, with the littlest of piano performances on “Become Someone Else’s” or an honest-to-god singer-songwriter acoustic song elsewhere on “I Want a Pair of Cowboy’s Boots.” You can say what you want- it’s the same old Lekman, but only ten songs- but I know different.

And ultimately, a lot of I Know What Love Isn’t is flawed. “The End Of The World is Bigger Than Love” can be dull, and a slight feint at that; it suggests that the end of the world even factors in to Lekman’s mind on album entirely dedicated to love and the loss of love. “Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder” is a conversation first and a song later, so dedicated is it to Lekman’s newfound love of craft. But there’s something in this clunky, structural record that suggests a musician uncaring of where his career peak was or what even defines him anymore. At some point, there’s a musician writing what he believes to be an honest, appropriate break-up album. One that sticks with you quite morosely, that doesn’t look for the upside, particularly, but doesn’t shy away from the serious hilarity of the woman who doesn’t want to be with you but doesn’t actually have anyone else in mind. By peeling away all of love’s non-events, I Know What Love Isn’t is a tragicomedy, not particularly in one mind about what it is, but knowing it’s sort of awful. And so I’m probably in no state to understand Lekman’s album, and probably in the perfect state to overrate it, but as a conventional rock record, and an attempt at the immaculate indie Lekman has been striving to make, this feels right for him: finally, a record he made even in sad and happy. Sinatra may have had his shit worked out, but Jens doesn’t. Or, maybe that, again, is the point. He does, and it turns out his shit isn’t at all romantic.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robin
Emeritus
September 7th 2012



4221 Comments


"i only ever go on sputnik drunk now." amen cam, amen

Irving
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2012



7008 Comments


But wait what this review was actually pretty good lol.

Digging: Caleb McAlpine - All Things New

Omaha
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2012



9467 Comments


Yeah, sweet review despite potential drunkenness.

Digging: Koan Sound - Dynasty

PuddlesPuddles
September 8th 2012



4668 Comments


3rd time I read about, and then forgot to follow up on, this. Must be a sign.



Be sure to remind me in a week :o

Kiran
Emeritus
September 8th 2012



5992 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i can definitely endorse a lot of what you're saying here, 2na

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
September 8th 2012



7229 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I've never listened to Jens Lekman. Given that Belle & Sebastian, Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine, The Magnetic Fields and The Avalanches are listed as 'similar bands,' I feel that should change.

SowingSeason
Emeritus
September 8th 2012



14509 Comments


I'm too review to be drunk

robin
Emeritus
September 8th 2012



4221 Comments


ali you'd love lekman's work

plane
Staff Reviewer
September 8th 2012



6073 Comments


Robin! Yes.

Tyrael
September 8th 2012



20394 Comments


This review is actually pretty sweet

Digging: Lantlos - Melting Sun

kitsch
September 8th 2012



5105 Comments


robin im going to listen to this because of the horrific breakup i had in june and the confusing feelings im feeling with this new girl im dating

this better halp

robin
Emeritus
September 8th 2012



4221 Comments


it almost certainly will not

& didn't think you'd like this lewis, nice

discoedave
September 9th 2012



21 Comments


'became someone else's' sounds hella the smiths-ish

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
September 9th 2012



23625 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

haha this is brilliant, summary and first comment included.

also:

Album Rating: 4.5


obviously.

Digging: Trophy Scars - Holy Vacants

VicariousIntent
September 11th 2012



1591 Comments


I've never heard of this guy, but the review was wonderful and it seems right up my alley. I get the feeling I shouldn't start with this record, but I will anyway. This guy seems extremely charismatic and I like him already.

AggravatedYeti
September 15th 2012



7684 Comments


love this robin.

AtavanHalen
September 22nd 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

over there

feanaro
December 12th 2012



793 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

erica america is magical

AtavanHalen
December 13th 2012



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

no i hate bands

robin
Emeritus
February 22nd 2013



4221 Comments


erica ameriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiicaaaaaaaaaaaa



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