Unearthed: Jens Lekman— I Know What Love Isn’t
Posted in Unearthed
IS THIS LOVE THAT I'M FEELING?
Once in college, I had the pleasure of attending a semi-private Jens Lekman concert. He was finishing up a North American tour and took a quick sojourn to the humble city where this great nation was birthed. Nestled in the historic confines of Williamsburg, Virginia lays the historic university, and my alma mater, The College of William and Mary. Most people will tout the place they spend the best four years of their life as exceptional and dear, but there’s something unique about these sentiments and how they relate to William and Mary. This is especially noticeable when exploring the college’s music scene.
Williamsburg, Virginia is basically an isolated city. It’s tiny and hidden from all highways and only accessible by two lane roads for miles until they hook up with Jamestown or Yorktown. Imagine the music scene in this seemingly desolate city where this relatively small, liberal arts, hippy-dippy college sits. Sounds miserable, right? Wrong. That was one of the most enjoyable parts of the experience. There was a concert every weekend and it featured acts that had not made it into the indie scene yet. For example, Dan Deacon played in a hall with maybe 100 people and it was the BEST show I have ever been to. In addition, the Givers played on a terrace in the middle of a beautiful afternoon and now they’re touring the world and playing packed houses. My point is that even though Williamsburg is the town America forgot, people still flock there. Maybe it’s novelty, maybe it’s historic appreciation, but whatever it is, musicians can’t seem to get enough of it.
Jens Lekman was one of these very appreciative artists that embraced the family-like spirit of the town. He showed up at around 8:30 p.m. with his piano player and strolled out on stage to a very eager crowd of close to 200 people. He took a moment to soak in the historic nature of the venue, the calmness of the night, and the clear adoration of the crowd. His first words were, “This is going to be a special night. I came here just for you guys. Do me a favor, put away your cameras. I don’t want to see any of this on YouTube. This night is meant to stay among us.” That sent a ripple of love throughout the crowd. We wanted tonight to be as special as he wanted it to be. There was not a single camera in the audience. Even the student organization in charge of throwing the concert turned off their filming equipment. And with that, Jens began to play.
That night epitomizes what I admire about Jens Lekman. His music is a reflection of his personality and it’s saturated with warmth and love. He realizes his gift and can attest to how special it is to connect with an audience through a means that only he should truly understand. The catch is that everyone can identify with the sadness and confusion he injects into his music. His songs are birthed of common human experiences, but he treats them as therapeutic mediums meant to purify his soul.
Lekman’s newest venture, I Know What Love Isn’t, is essentially Lekman’s way of completely exposing himself to us. It’s a record born out of love lost, and it plays like one. In one of his previous works, Night Falls Over Kortedala, we see the same emotional Jens, but musically the record is far denser. This is perhaps because of the inherent nature of the record, one that recounted mostly happy memories and images. In contrast, the music in I Know What Love Isn’t mirrors the lonely nature of a painful breakup. Most notably, Lekman uses individual instruments or smaller versions of them instead of groups or larger family members (i.e., a single violin (I Know What Love Isn’t) instead of a string section (Night Falls Over Kortedala), an upright piano instead of a grand, etc.). It makes for a beautiful and touching collection of hopes and shattered dreams.
I Know What Love Isn’t, however, leads a double life. Overtly, and as previously mentioned, it’s essentially a break up record. That’s all fine and well if you take it at face value, but diving deeper into its meaning reveals a journey to find what love is. Lekman expects us to sympathize with his state, but he does not expect us to enjoy his plight. We are all looking for answers to the age long question of love and its follies. Lekman, it seems, continues the journey into what it means for him with this deeply personal record. There is no doubt that he loved this mystery woman; that is abundantly clear. But when Lekman says, “…you don’t get over a broken heart, you just learn to carry it gracefully,” how he can quantify that emotion, however, is something with which he is still grappling.
Purchase Jens Lekman's I Know What Love Isn't here.