Anthony Carew August 24, 2012
YOU could tell Jens Lekman was a Melbourne local when he stopped playing shows here. The Swedish minstrel had been a regular visitor to his home-away-from-home prior to his 2008 relocation, touring here often, in part, because of his love of the town. But once Lekman was local, any on-stage appearances were rare; more often, he was at gigs in the crowd.
The sweet-voiced singer-songwriter may have moved away, for good, in 2011 - frustrated by ongoing visa issues - but one listen to Lekman's third album, I Know What Love Isn't, makes it feel like he never left. After last year's An Argument with Myself EP found Lekman walking North Melbourne streets, the new album is a suite of songs - filled with the familiar cast of female characters - set against local landmarks; like on the swelling The World Moves On, when he seeks respite from the Black Saturday heatwave in Edinburgh Gardens.
''My songs don't deal with locations that specifically, even if there are very specific references to them in there; they're sort of just where stories happen, not the stories themselves,'' Lekman says of his album-long study of familiar places. ''My old songs used to take place in Gothenburg, then when I lived in Melbourne the songs just naturally took place more in Melbourne.''
Which is not to say he doesn't wish he was still living here. ''It was something that I dreamed of for a very long time,'' Lekman says. ''I really loved living there. I feel sad now that you bring it up. This is my first Australian interview in a long time; I've been referencing Australia as this place in the background, somehow, but now that I'm actually talking about it with someone in Melbourne, I feel really sad.''
I Know What Love Isn't is an album-long study in sadness; filled with plentiful questions on the nature of relationships and the cultural currency of a broken heart. It's Lekman's first album since 2007's Night Falls over Kortedala and it took three years to make; recordings began in Melbourne in 2009 and finished this year in Gothenburg.
''In 2009, I was writing songs like crazy; I wrote like 40 or 50 songs for this album,'' Lekman says. ''The problem was not the songwriting. The problem was that, for so long, I couldn't get the songs to line up.''
After nursing the album -and broken heart- for so long, Lekman is about to hand them over to the world. ''This moment right before the record comes out, it's a bit scary, because it's so much about letting go,'' he says. ''Once I release a song, it's not just about me or the people … I write about. They're my stories, but they're not really mine any more.''
I Know What Love Isn't is out next Friday on Spunk/Cooperative.