Stephin Merritt, Morrissey, Stuart Murdoch, and Calvin Johnson had a baby and sent him to Sweden, home of perfect pop songs.
Suggested First Purchase: Oh You're So Silent Jens
Maple Leaves EP (2004) -- Even more than the full-length, this release shows Lekman's complete range. "Maple Leaves" has all the sweep and scope of his epic songs. "Sky Phenomenon" is a good example of his piano ballads (of which there might be too many on the LP), with one of my favorite lyrics which states that he wouldn't be accepted by a flock of birds because "he can't dance the funky chicken" (something about the juxtaposition of words and notes). "Black Cab" is a song that could have fit on The Magnetic Fields' The Charm of the Highway Strip (in sound, if not completely in content), even though it's basically a sampling (or rendering) of a Left Banke song for the background; at any rate, it might be the most all-out enjoyable song he's written. Finally, "Sometime To Share My Life With" is a nice cover, again showing off his baladeering tendencies. A great EP. (There are usually at least two versions of each of Lekman's CD, since he's an overseas guy; the one from Service also features "Pocketful of Money," featuring a Beat Happening sample. The Secretly Canadian version does not.)
Rocky Dennis EP (2004) -- For some reason, Jens used to have this nickname: the name of the guy from Mask. Things are a little too soft here for their own good, and the second song is just a short instrumental, so there's not a lot here. "If You Ever Need a Stranger," however (the song not about Rocky Dennis) is a definite standout and one of his better songs. A slighter but nice EP. (This was released by Service as Rocky Dennis In Heaven, minus "If You Ever Need a Stranger.")
You Are the Light EP (2004) -- Jens Lekman pulls out all the stops for the title track (complete with a reprise at the end of the EP) which is all happy and explosive and addictive. "I Saw Her at the Anti-War Demonstration" takes a Beatlesy riff and plays with it, while "A Sweet Summer Night on Hammer Hill" is downright goofy (in a good way) with the live audience backing him up, singing, "Bomp a bomp a bomp a bomp a bomp a bomp a bomp..." a zillion times. "A Man Walks Into a Bar" isn't the greatest, but it works well enough here. This is the joyous opposite of Rocky Dennis, and I like it better for that reason. (This was released by Service as Julie, opening with the song "Julie" and having every other song on You Are the Light except the final reprise.)
When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog (2004) -- Just look at the album cover, and you can kind of tell what to expect here: It's got a Belle & Sebastian and Morrissey feel to it, he's wearing a Beck shirt (and expression), he looks a little like Calvin Johnson, and there's something Stephin Merritt about it too. All those people are combined here, along with the "who is this guy?" first reaction you might have. The inside of the CD declares that this is "a collection of songs," and it is. People don't just collect songs and put them out much anymore; they're more concerned with making albums. He brings over the unashamed jubilation of "You Are the Light" and the beautiful "If You Ever Need a Stranger" from his previous EPs. Unfortunately, the only other "non-soft" song he collects is "Happy Birthday, Dear Friend Lisa" (unless you count "A Higher Power," which is somewhat upbeat), the rest of them being very ballady. All of the songs are good, but since we know he can do happy numbers, we sort of want more of them, and it gets a little heavy with all the softness going around. If things were spread out a bit (or if he'd brought over some of the other songs from the EPs: "Black Cab" comes to mind), this would be a much better album. It's still an excellent album, but it seems a bit uneven to be as perfect as it could be.
Oh You're So Silent Jens (2005) -- Jens Lekman releases his Scandinavian records on the Service label and the rest of the world gets stuff from the Secretly Canadian label. This handy collection puts all of the Service EPs and some other rare tracks on one disc. Looking at the track list, you might think that you don't want this anyway if you have all the Secretly Canadian EPs because of all the track overlap. However, many of the songs put out on Service are considerably different mixes from those put out on SC. Also, there are five songs that don't appear on any SC albums in any form. So you still need your Secretly Canadian EPs (this collection doesn't render them useless by any means--maybe one day there will be a SC release that does that, however), and this takes care of the rest. Specifically, the tracks come from the "Maple Leaves" 7", the Maple Leaves EP, Rocky Dennis In Heaven EP, Julie EP, and tracks from a fanzine and a compilation. So what about the collection itself, aside from these details? I think it's the best representation of Jens Lekman stuff yet. The LP When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog was great, but it didn't show his range as much as the EPs did. So this collection of EPs is the perfect way to start, and it's a more enjoyable collection. And since both this and the full-length album work as collections of songs anyway (instead of some sort of "concept" album or whatever), one is just as cohesive as the other. This has some of Jens' greatest songs, including "Maple Leaves," "Black Cab" (still his best song), and "Julie." (This collection is released both on Service and Secretly Canadian. SC is the way to go if you want both versions of "Maple Leaves." Service is fine if you can live with one of them.)
Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)
Kalendervägen 113.D (2007) -- A bonus disc that came with pre-ordered copies of Night Falls Over Kortedala featuring a live performance in his apartment right before he moved out. Mostly stuff from the albums, but new things too, including the Paul Simon song "Homeless."
Copyright (c) Sep 2004 - Jan 2008 by Rusty Likes Music