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Opening with a godawful piano ‘interlude’ which I wish hadn’t happened, the first main track ‘Erica America’ is a gorgeous slab of yacht rock which sits perfectly between Chris Rea circa ‘On the Beach’ and later period Steely Dan. The arrangements are exquisite, full of bright acoustic guitars, brushed drums, warm keys and well thought out chord changes. Perfect for a cognac on the back veranda on a sunny day in 1986. It’s like The Smiths gone easy listening. Actually its a whole pile of fluff which I never want to hear again but ‘Erica America’ is a guilty pleasure I may well return to in moments of bleakness.
7/10 Matt 29th June 2014
In some ways it's fairly easy to classify Jens Lekman; as Clinton states here on 'I Know What Love Isn't', "It’s like The Smiths gone easy listening."
As someone who was introduced to Jens Lekman by a friend several years ago under the pretence of him being "the Swedish Morrissey" it's a comparison I've found hard to escape. For better or worse, people always seem lump The Smiths into the 'break-up band' category; whereas I see Morrissey's lyrics far more about never being together in the first place. This is where 'I Know What Love Isn't' really deviates from The Smiths comparisons.
Jens serves up a mass of quivering vocal deliveries that he's clearly dragging from a recent, difficult break-up. You need look no further than the titles:
Become Someone Else's, She Just Don't Want to be With You Anymore, The End of the World is Bigger than Love, and the titular track, I Know What Love Isn't. Compared to some of his other releases (such as the much adored 'Night Falls Over Kortedala') his delivery is much more streamlined, restrained; which isn't necessarily a good thing. It's hard to listen to Jens sing about his heartache; rather than flirting with a deaf girl at a party in sign language, falling in love with a girl at an anti-war demonstration, or even remembering 'A Sweet Summer's Night on Hammer Hill' listening to Warren G.
This is not to say that I Know What Love Isn't is poor, it's just not quite what I was expecting. It features some of Jens' classic witticisms and some truly beautiful remarks, with the closing track "Every Little Hair Knows Your Name" delivering both in spades.
If you find yourself exclusively drawn to the bombastic dynamism of earlier Jens (i.e. You Are the Light, Your Arms Around Me, The Opposite of Hallelujah, Higher Power) then you may find yourself somewhat disappointed, 'I Know What Love Isn't' lacks the 'WOW!' that so many of his other releases delivered. It just feels a little too constrained.
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