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Jens Lekman I Know What Love Isn’t Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The Swedish singer’s third set feels like a fresh start.

Luke Slater 2012

Jens Lekman’s 2011 EP, An Argument With Myself, may have been an enjoyable and relatively riotous detour for the Swedish artist. But by the time of its release, even patient fans were ready for another full-length. And that’s something, five years after second LP Night Falls Over Kortedala, we now have.   

I Know What Love Isn’t feels like a fresh start for Lekman – even though he’s adopted the same guise of singer and storyteller. As you would expect from a record predominantly about heartbreak, there’s a fair deal of melancholy, though it’s subtler than a simple bunch of lovelorn ballads, and at 10 tracks this is a fairly compact effort.  

I Know What Love Isn’t also has its share of bright, breezy and summery pop songs. Of these, Erica America is the most instantly melodic and memorable, whilst The World Moves On finds Lekman telling a tale in his familiarly wry style.  

Lekman has always had a neat turn of phrase, whether barbed, droll or plainly silly. Again, there’s plenty of them here, and one standout – “You don’t get over a broken heart / You just learn to carry it gracefully” – echoes many of the sentiments throughout.

That projected introspection is something you feel is always going to be present – after all, this is a man who pretended to have a Skype conversation with his 17-year-old self. Fittingly enough, the end is also the beginning, with the full and complete incarnation of those few piano chords from opener Every Little Hair Knows Your Name being expanded into a three-minute glum and gently finger-picked stroll through sadness.

On what he has termed his “debut”, we find Lekman playing it straighter and more directly than he’s ever done before. Given the relatively hither-and-thither make-up of his previous releases, there is little doubt that I Know What Love Isn’t is the most focused of the lot. There is nothing especially novel contained within, but in its entirety, as a bona fide album, it is more revealing than anything else he’s produced

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