Music Reviews
An Argument With Myself EP

Jens Lekman An Argument With Myself EP

(Secretly Canadian) Rating - 5/10

If you pit an artist who emphasizes on big statements against one who bemoans his woes on minutiae issues, you’re sure to a get a contradictorily mash of ideas drawn from one or the other. Jens Lekman strikes a balance between both – he amuses himself by broadening the habitual with sophistication whilst winking at the listener with his matter-of-fact ruminations, all while displaying a corny-but-proud fondness for the ostentatious. He’s the equivalent of the character actor, always nibbling around all corners of the screen with foremost presence even if his name is hard to catch.

It’s been over four years since the Swedish singer-songwriter turned a few unsuspecting heads with Night Falls on Kortedala, a fairly haughty, but nevertheless poignant series of vignettes served in a platter filled with lush, orchestrated assortments. And while the true follow-up to that release is still very much under wraps, Lekman follows it with a five song EP that feels rather stuffy considering its brief running time. More an exploration of different moods rather than a unified piece, An Argument With Myself finds him globetrotting across different locales, gathering his findings and thoughts (on a Moleskine notebook, I presume) without a clear sense of direction.

A true stickler to didactic narration, the title track has Lekman describing his spur-of-the-moment city walk across Melbourne’s Elizabeth Street over a zestful Calypso tinge, which is contradiction in itself. His nescience towards the use of steel drums and eighties Latin crossover synths feels rather hollow, which inevitably makes him look like a palm tree-wearing tourist rather than a sunburned backpacker. Mercifully, Waiting for Kirsten crosses familiar territory – in true Lekman fashion, strings and arpeggiated guitars abound while he rushes to squeeze together lengthy verses. The lovable story also evokes more than a literal account of fawning over a celebrity; it’s as much about the humble values of Gothenburg and the unbreakable bond of true friendships.

Once A Promise sweeps some bowed strings over an AM pop melody, the thought of Lekman excelling at one kind of song becomes much clearer. He also takes a breather from cramming so much prose that it’s actually refreshing; in the song, he pledges to one day take an ill soul over to the wine regions in the Chilean capital and away from the winter blowing cold in Sweden if he ever overcomes his true battle: a faulty health care system. It’s the only moment in  An Argument where he’s sharing a destination-led reverie instead of actually living it.

After two strong, if familiar, showings, Lekman tries to pull out a hatful of directionless ideas with New Directions, which starts with a swanky brass fanfare, meddles it with an awkward white man flow, and still manages to throw in a skronky sax bridge outburst. And to add insult to injury, So This Guy at My Office couldn’t be any more sluggish  - as much as a pre-programmed reggae track pulsing against a slick flute may be outside his oeuvre, the result of him riding Kokomo waves with black shades on doesn’t mean he's breaking any new ground. 

Taking himself out of the leading role may have benefited Lekman to some extent, as An Argument finds him carrying thoughtfulness towards his subjects and gaining some self-reflection in the process. As dedicated as he is to forming these characters into life-size beings, it doesn’t change the fact that some are less interesting than others due to a lack of personification (even his own alter ego, but that’s justified). His newfangled quirks mostly fumble, but at least he’s letting it out of his system for what should portend his true follow-up. If his alter ego keeps egging him on, than we may have a problem.