A few months ago, I drove down Highway 1 through Big Sur in the early afternoon. The light blue sky unfolded out into the ocean as I hugged the turns in my Jetta blasting Jens Lekman’s dreamy “Night Falls Over Kortedala” through the open sunroof. In my head, I saw myself seated next to a lover in a perfect romantic moment, one where beautiful pop songs swirled out into the expanse of the California coastline. Of course, in reality I found myself seated next to my gristled friend surrounded by the stench of camping, the lovely odor of sweat and bear urine festering in the folds of a sleeping bag. It was a letdown, of course, but still managed to capture Lekman’s pop songs perfectly. You see, Lekman rarely falls to the altar of overpowering imagined romance, instead choosing to capture the nuances of reality and place them in the language of the beautiful and overpowering concept of love.
Lekman is hitting Downtown Brew for the first time ever on Saturday night. Over the past few years, he’s released three highly praised albums and cemented himself as one of Sweden’s top pop artists, so we’re lucky to have him. In honor of that luck, I would like to present my top four favorite “love” songs written by the pale-faced singer:
“A Higher Power” – Characters find religion in the pangs and blunder of blind love. Clad in Nietzsche T-shirts, they take up vows by asphyxiating themselves with plastic bags and praying to porcelain altars. A triumphant connective power presents itself through its own melancholic rejection as Lekman kisses the stomach of a lover vomiting up Christmas spirits to the swell of strings.
“Happy Birthday, Dear Friend Lisa” – Horns play as Lekman plays tribute to the titular Lisa’s lonely birthday spent with Jehovah’s Witnesses hawking eternal life door to door as a replacement for the real suffering of the day-to-day. Lekman offers her the chastest of loves as a replacement, day-to-day fondness rather than the questionable promise of subsuming heavenly love.
“Maple Leaves” – His hit pop song bounces along in the aftermath of punctured romantic illusion. The maple leaves of autumnal romance are just make believe. A declaration of a fall is misinterpreted as shout-outs to post-punk god Mark E. Smith and the changing of the seasons rather than the end of a relationship. The beloved tries to escape leaving confusing terminology that’s “never understood at all.”
“The Opposite of Hallelujah” – Metaphors that supposedly tie everything together collapse under the chaos of human life. The burn of expressing a whole truth, like love or faith, flares through anthemic pop perfection, but never finds fulfillment. In the end, Lekman simply finds resignation in a coda: “You don’t know what I’m going through.”
Jens Lekman will play on Saturday at Downtown Brewing Company. He will be supported by comedian Tig Notaro who’s put in her time on the Sarah Silverman Show as Officer Tig. Doors open at 8 p.m.