Everything about “Night Falls Over Kortedala,” the new album by Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman, will make you want to find him and become his best friend as soon as possible (or possibly date him if you are into adorable male musicians).
First of all, there’s Lekman’s modestly melodic baritone, with just a hint of an accent that makes him sing things like “Your fodder is a sweet old man.” Aww! Then there’s the orchestration, which encompasses everything from lush strings to techno beats to tropical-inspired guitar and shuffling maraca sounds. Lekman’s creativity in this department pervades the album with lightheartedness and also gives off the impression that he is a pretty fun-loving guy. But most importantly, this album is full of brilliantly delivered lyrics that are quietly, endearingly witty. As you might imagine, all this is pretty much a recipe for irresistibility.
A prime example of Lekman’s appeal is “Postcard to Nina,” one of the album’s best tracks. In this song Lekman describes a dinner in Berlin with his friend Nina’s father, during which Nina makes him pretend to be her boyfriend so her father won’t suspect she is gay. Over orchestration that could just as easily belong in a 1950’s doo-wop hit, including harmonized “oooh ba ba ba”s, Lekman sweetly details the awkwardness that ensues. After he leaves, he tells Nina, “Your fodder’s mailing me all the time / He says he just wants to say hi / I send back ‘out of office’ auto-replies…”
His unique, just slightly absurd commentary on the world is equally present on a track called “It Was a Strange Time in My Life,” in which he presents a wonderful discourse on shy people (a category into which he implicitly places himself). “People seem to think a shy personality equals gifted,” he sings, chorale-style. “But if they would get to know one I’m sure that idea would have shifted / Most shy people I know are extremely boring / Either that or they are miserable from all the shit they’ve been storing.” Accompanied by a looped track of a tiny child singing, vinyl-style crackles and guest vocals by Frida Hyvonen and El Perro del Mar, Lekman presents this mild self-deprecation brightly and matter-of-factly.
After Lekman’s charm and musicality wins you over, the next step is of course to pursue his friendship. If you’re looking for a good conversation starter, you might consider comparing the relative merits of New Haven and Kortedala. The album is named after a suburb of Gothenburg in western Sweden where Lekman lives, and his description of it in his blog is enough to make a person grateful for the Flower Lady: “What a depressing suburban hell this place is. Everyone goes to bed at nine, after that you can’t see one single window lit up,” he writes. He continues to list more wonderful qualities of his town: “The dead cats that show up on the lawn outside my kitchen, the knock on my window at 4 am this summer followed by a whispered ‘when he opens you hit him in the head,’ the neighbor I constantly find passed out in the staircase…”
It’s therefore rather surprising that Lekman decided to name his album after this place, since “Night Falls Over Kortedala” is about as far removed from the squalor of its eponymous neighborhood as you can get. Too bad it is also likely about as close to friendship with Jens Lekman as you can get. But fortunately for everyone, listening to Lekman sing lyrical gems like “My heart is beating / beating like Ringo,” followed by a joyous saxophone refrain, is a more than acceptable substitute.