You Are the Light
Picking up the production values where The Rocky Dennis EP left off, You Are the Light sees Sweden’s Jens Lekman finding instrumentation to live up to the incredible promise of his lyrics. Let’s get started…
Lekman makes a Vegas entrance on the disc with the title track. Kickstarting with a propulsive chorus of horns, handclaps and Carpenters-esque pacing, he recites possibly one of the best devotional love lyrics ever to introduce a song: “Yeah I got busted so I used my one phone call to dedicate a song to you on the radio.” Even after this, it only gets better.
Aside from a title worthy of Morrissey, “I Saw Her at the Anti-War Demonstration” is Lekman at his writing/performing peak. Built on a baroque string arrangement, the song flirts with sparse proto-punk (a la Modern Lovers) while Lekman’s low croon shines, particularly on the inspired line, “…love, enough to feed a family/but I just want to feed Emily/with lukewarm English beer and vegan pancakes.”
“A Sweet Summer Night at Hammer Hill” marries ecstatic pre-studio live bootleg crowd participation with professional recordings. The hybrid works surprisingly well thanks to the onomatopoetic heartbeat chorus provided by the audience. Lyrically, “A Man Walks Into a Bar” is the most ambitious song Lekman’s written. He uses the pretense of a half forgotten bad joke to reflect on the past good times he had with a former lover. The song comes full circle when Lekman himself becomes the man in the bar drowning his sorrows away, while a breezy, dour reworking of Burt Bacharach’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” plays in the background.
It’s a hard thing to make songs so shrouded in disappointment and nostalgia seem life affirming, but Jens Lekman somehow pulls it off here. This is indispensible listening for anyone who enjoys Belle & Sebastian or Morrissey in his Smiths heydays.
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