Jens Lekman

Life Will See You Now

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    7
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After the release of his 2012 album, I Know What Love Isn't, Jens Lekman went out on tour and quickly realized that his fans hadn't really warmed up to the sad and subdued nature of the new songs. This realization sent Lekman into a bit of a tailspin that led to him questioning the nature of his songs and the character of "Jens" that he had created. He kept working and almost finished an album in 2014, but set it aside when it became clear that it wasn't quite right. Then in 2015 he launched two projects: Postcards, which consisted of Lekman writing and releasing a new song every week; and Ghostwriting, where he would put stories sent to him into lyrics and write music to go with them. The work that went into these undertakings inspired Lekman to rededicate himself to making another album. He teamed up with producer Ewan Pearson, whom he had met while doing guest vocals on a Tracey Thorn album, and started work on a new album. Life Will See You Now swings back from the subtle, more intimate nature of I Know What Love Isn't in favor of a bright and sunny-sounding album that's full of happy samples, disco beats, and cheerful melodies. The tunes sound radio-ready in a way that previous efforts never had; they are shorn of eccentricities and shined up like supermarket produce. Overcooked tracks like "Hotwire the Ferris Wheel" and "How We Met, the Long Version" sound almost as much like anonymous music playing in the background of cell phone commercials as they do real songs. Pearson and Lekman seem to go out of their way to avoid any of the '80s pop of I Know What Love Isn't or the shambling indie pop of the past when putting Life together. Only a few songs have any degree of intimacy left, and they still sound overly slick in comparison to previous Lekman albums. As for the songs themselves, Lekman has taken a big step away from writing about "himself," and the record is a series of vignettes about other people or conversations he's had with people about life. A lot of the album feels inspired by the Ghostwriting project, and while he's definitely injected himself into the songs, it feels oddly detached and writerly, as if he's taking pains to create a buffer zone of distance between his real feelings and the listener. That being said, the songs still have plenty of humor and insight, odd observations and catchy choruses -- all the things his songs have always had. The problem is that, thanks to the extra layer of studio gloss and the detached nature of the lyrics, Life comes across like the result of a songwriting exercise more than it does a true expression of emotions, like a career move instead of an honest progression and the first Jens Lekman record it's OK to skip.

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