Seriously, what is going on in Scandinavia? It’s really Europe’s best kept secret isn’t it? Or, perhaps not anymore now that Vanity Fair recently did a whole spread on Scandinavia’s moment of capturing the cultural zeitgeist. (See here, and okay it was only two pages.) In case you didn’t know, Edward Munch’s Scream recently sold for $120 million and these books by Stieg Larsson seem to be all the rage. #behindthetimesbestsellerlist. To me the real coup isn’t blockbuster brilliance or art-market shattering payouts, but the clear fact that Scandinavia has taken the mantle as Europe’s pre-eminent source of high quality and brilliant new music. From indie-guitar rock (e.g., the Shout Out Louds & We Are Seranades) to electro dance (e.g., Robyn & Niki and the Dove) to dream pop (e.g., the Raveonettes) to folk rock (e.g., First Aid Kit, Tallest Man on Earth), the Swedes, Danes, Fins and Norwegians are blanketing the Continent in wall of pleasant tunes. About the only thing Europe’s equivalent of the Great White North hasn’t quite mastered yet is Soul and Hip Hop, but I’m sure some music factory in Copenhagen, Oslo, or Stockholm is busy working on it.
While we wait for Scandinavia to redefine that cultural paradigm, one of Sweden’s best songwriters is returning with supposedly his “first real album“, this by his own admission. Jens Lekman, the Swedish born, singer with a penchant for quirky lyrics, Burt Bacharach lounge orchestrations, and all the baroque opulence of a mini-Chamber quartet is set to release a new album in a couple of weeks. After hearing this first track on NPR’s All Songs Considered the past week, “I Know What Love Isn’t”, I can’t wait. Jens has a knack for twisting the sincere into something so brilliantly sardonic: “Let’s get married, I’m serious, but only for the citizenship.” As I listened to this track riding my bike as the sun was setting (a fitting background) I was trying to place who and/or what this reminded me. And, finally it dawned on me, James Taylor around the time of JT, probably the best record he ever recorded. (Now, I follow that declaration with the caveat that I’m not a big fan of James Taylor.) Jens captures the carefree and dreamy quality of 70s folk-rock* with such ease and brilliance while rescuing the at-times overly maudlin and saccharine nature of this sound; there is a little bit of more recent Belle & Sebastian in the mix too. The song is such a great mix of playfully menacing and malevolently mirthful. So, stop reading and check out Jens and his new song below.
Also, in case you aren’t familiar with Jens, check out his previous full length record, Night Falls Over Koredala, here. Or just sample the brilliant “Sipping on the Sweet Nectar” below and feel free to find a dance partner.
To pre/order Jens’ new album or learn more about his music (and the excellent label Secretly Canadian) go here.
p.s. Jens is touring the U.S. Check out his dates, here. Who wants to go see him on October 2nd with Taken by Trees in Chicago?
*70s Folk-Rock was probably the music that many current 20- and 30-somethings’ parents were digging well into the kids’ formative years, which likely explains why this “lite-AM(now FM)” Folk Rock is anathema to most of my peers. However, there are some who won’t listen to anything but the James Taylors, Carole Kings, Jackson Brownes, and Linda Ronstadts of the world. I try avoiding extremes in all things. There is some great stuff there.