Review: Jens Lekman – An Argument with Myself EP

When descriptions of a songwriter resort to Jonathan Richman and Scott Walker comparisons, you know you’ve found something good. And Sweden’s Jens Lekman, though always humble, really is that good. Possessing a witty and utterly confessional style of songwriting, he is also blessed with an intuitive sense of sample-lifted melody-making. You could never mistake a Jens song for someone else’s.

The syrupy and indulgent production that falls just shy of schmaltz would give the impression of triviality were it not for Lekman’s nonchalant honesty and storytelling ability (hence the nods to Richman). And this honesty is such that even the quotidian can be compellingly reframed: “I’m leaving you because I don’t love you”, a phrase familiar to everyone – in its more euphemistic permutations – was affectingly heartfelt on Lekman’s Night Falls Over Kortelada (2007).

No material saw release since then until this September’s EP, in which we find an older Jens, since transplanted to Melbourne (although one track fittingly finds him back in Gothenburg). Befitting this move to the southern hemisphere, the production on An Argument With Myself is distinctly tropical, especially on the eponymous opening track. In terms of raw pop, ‘New Directions’ is the real standout, mixing an old-school sax solo and outstanding bass groove to bugle salutes and a female-sung hook with undeniably catchy results.

Lyrically, Lekman’s talent for writing about several things at once is demonstrated on ‘Waiting for Kirsten’, ostensibly about Dunst and her escapades in Gothenburg during the filming of Melancholia, but also managing to explore Lekman’s nostalgia for the place (and people) he left behind, as well the entrenchment of privilege in what was once a working-class city. But the cleverest of the (short) collection is the reggae-tinged ‘So This Guy At My Office’, which starts out humorously enough: “He showed me this video, and it was not even funny”, until the final verse, sung to a character not even mentioned in the song, “My day starts when you get here, and ends when you leave.” Sappy yes, but Jens means it.