Maple Leaves / Rocky Dennis
It’s funny how the information chain works sometimes. Jens Lekman, Sweden’s best export since The (International) Noise Conspiracy, was introduced to my ears thanks to a friend currently living in Japan. With only these two four-song EPs readily available to the world at large, this should give you some idea of how far reaching this guy’s popularity stands to get.
Maple Leaves is the stronger of the two discs, opening with the title track, a song so astute and full of wit that I’m floored English is Lekman’s second language. It’s a break-up song, but lines like, “she said we were just make believe/ but I thought she said ‘maple leaves’/ and when she talked about a fall/ I thought she talked about a season/ I never understood at all,” delivered with a Morrissey-ian croon, should put a wry smile on every listener’s face. Later, “Black Cab” is the inner monologue of a sad sack contemplating whether or not to put his life in the hands of a “psycho killer” driver. From the ringing sleigh bells of “Maple Leaves,” to the somber, echoing piano on “Sky Phenomenon,” to the chiming guitars and orchestral run-off of “Black Cab,” the music is pure Tigermilk-era Belle & Sebastian. It sounds like a bedroom recording: lovely, intimate and perfectly suited for the lyrics.
Rocky Dennis has decidedly higher production values, but doesn’t sacrifice any of the previous disc’s warmth. The newfound freedom allows Lekman to delve deeper into his inner auteur and provide richer dressings for his songs (electro beats, viola, etc.), but the winners again are Lekman’s effortless and flowing pop sensibilities and smirking wordplay.
Go get these, folks. Now! That’s your mission. Next, tell your friends, the farther away the better. Think of it as the first chain letter everyone will actually enjoy.