"I Know What Love Isn't" By Catherine P. Lewis Friday, October 12, 2012
Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman is being honest with his latest album title. “I Know What Love Isn’t” contains tale after tale of failed love. The charm of Lekman’s music, however, is that he crafts songs that sound remarkably upbeat and romantic even while capturing dejection. Chipper piano flourishes provide a peppy flair on “Become Someone Else’s,” and the energy of the horn blasts and cheery vocal melody of “The World Moves On” contradict the weariness of its lyrics.
Lekman packs a lot into a song: Layers of instruments and vocal harmonies contribute to the album’s carefree pop sound. But there’s a fine line between effortless orchestration and overwhelming detail, and “I Know What Love Isn’t” sometimes falls on the wrong side of that line. A woman’s giggle after his marriage proposal on the title track is gratingly cheesy, and the linear narrative of “The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love” (which includes a memory of election night in Washington) contains an exhausting number of words.
Lekman still finds a few poignant takeaways from his heartbreak. “You don’t get over a broken heart / You just learn to carry it gracefully,” he sighs on “The World Moves On.” Sometimes, though, a more graceful approach is to keep a few details private.
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