Jens Lekman opens Night Falls Over Kortedala with the sure step of an artist in complete command of his creative self. Imbued with epic grandeur, 'And I Remember Every Kiss' fades in with a melancholy timpani roll, a stirring string section and Jens crooning with every wistful bone in his body. After the first verse, the strings passionately swell into a wall of sound and with one gravity-defying pass-through Jens delivers his death blow to cynicism, illustrating just why many consider him one of the most important of the hopeful broken hearts coming of age in contemporary music. Like a modern day Chet Baker, Jens absolutely loves to sing about heartache. On 'Sipping On the Sweet Nectar', Jens introduces a dance beat to his string, horn and croon combo. And it only gets bigger from there with the tableside backbeat of 'The Opposite of Hallelujah' to the live favorite 'A Postcard to Nina', and the slender hooks of 'I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You' to the Frankie Valli purity of 'Shirin' an epic ode to Jens' barber which is reminiscent of a Mexican Folk ballad.
Halfway through the first track of Jens Lekman's finest offering yet, "And I Remember Every Kiss," a Lekman neophyte might be sure they've got him pegged. Here's another Scott-Walker-worshipping yungin; a precocious string-section crooner. To be sure, there's plenty of string-soaked melodrama here, and Lekman puts that modest Morrissey-esque croon to work throughout the album. But after the high camp Copa-Cabana disco of "Sipping on the Sweet Nectar," the breezy latin-flavored "Into Eternity," the acoustic lullaby of "Shirin" or the, uh, drive-in vibe of "Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo," it's clear Lekman's ambition and sense of humor can't be confined to one small corner of imitation or appropriation. Appropriation--in the literal sense, for that matter--is one of Lekman's great strengths, as evidenced by the new context he gives his many perfect samples, be it a drum loop from the Residents and Renaldo & The Loaf record Title in Limbo, or any number of lifted orchestral bits. Lekman weaves many of his samples so seamlessly into his presentation, one is often at a loss to distinguish samples from live instruments. The end result is something like a new millennium Brill Building, with songcraft at the helm, but awash in modern production technique. Lekman's world masterfully pairs the electronic with the human. Lekman's also a pro at the sort of wry lyrical melancholia one associates with the aforementioned Morrissey, or other contemporaries like Stephen Merritt of the Magnetic Fields. He's a lot less caustic, but still plays the biographical narrator stewing in life's near misses. He's got a real silly streak, however, just as quick to pen couplets like "my heart is beating, beating like Ringo/as I pull into the drive-in bingo," or "I took my sister down to the ocean/but the ocean made me feel stupid." These lyrical gems illustrate one certainty. Night Falls Over Kortedala is unabashedly precious. Lekman's meticulously crafted, symphonic indie-pop is all saccharine indulgence, but hey, he owns it, and that makes the payoff all the more sweet. --Jason Pace
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