It’s been five years since the last album from Swedish pop musician Jens Lekman, and the 10 songs of his newest, I Know What Love Isn’t, poignantly explain why. While Lekman has written the occasional song of heartbreak on his previous three albums, I Know What Love Isn’t is officially his breakup album, and the songs tell the story of his struggle to put himself back together.
Lekman didn’t set out to write a breakup record. While he might be compared to sardonic depressives like The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt or Morrissey, Lekman is not a depressive himself. Instead, he’s a wag and a romantic, full of humor and frequently exuberant with songs about warm summer nights and bingo. But as much as he wasn't interested in writing songs about his breakup, he couldn’t help but come back to it again and again. As he explains on gut-wrenching closer “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name”:
I wrote some songs when we broke up
But nothing came out so I stopped
Every chord I struck was a miserable chord
It would of course be tedious to just watch him wallow, but the album never goes long without the usual yarns and quips. In that same song he goes on to provide a few examples of the chords—“like an Fm11 or an E-flat major7,” he explains, striking each chord as he names it. But the humor is dark, and, for fans of the songster, hearing him broken is heartbreaking.
In a 2007 love letter to Lekman from Stephen Metcalf (and his daughter) for Slate, Metcalf wrote that “Lekman is a fully realized pop genius, and each of his full-length records is its own masterpiece.” That statement is as true as ever, and you can stream his latest and saddest full-length below via The Quietus. But bring tissues.