If I learned one thing at this week’s Free At Noon, it’s that Jens Lekman has charm to spare. There’s a disarming ease to the way he talks and performs that you don’t see very often. Maybe it’s the way he bows after every song, or the way he quietly smiles to himself while he plays. Maybe it’s the way he thanked a baby for taking a nap in front of him mid-set, maybe it’s the way he held the hand of a fan during a tender lyric, or maybe it’s Maybelline. Whatever it is, it’s totally his own, and over the course of a breezy afternoon set, he put it to very good use. It certainly helped that most of the set came from his very fun, very danceable new album Life Will See You Now, but in all honesty, the guy could have kept my attention with a recorder and a tambourine.
Before inviting the rest of the band onstage, Lekman kicked things off solo with album opener “To Know Your Mission.” On record, the track has a bright, fully-realized arrangement, but by stripping it of that context, it took on a much more sincere, ballad-like quality. Then, he was joined by a trio of bassist, drummer, and keyboardist, and the four launched into Life Will See You Now’s infectious lead single, “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?” The songs that followed were cut from a similar cloth, deftly blending danceable pop appeal with Lekman’s idiosyncratic, winding narratives. By smashing classic pop chords and melodies against buoyant electronic production, songs like the easy-going “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel” and closer “Dandelion Seeds” felt as familiar as they did strikingly modern. Any great songwriter can make you smile, tear-up, laugh, or dance, but Lekman is one of the rare few that can make them all happen at the same time.
Life Will See You Now is out now via Secretly Canadian Records. If you didn’t get a chance to catch Jens Lekman live this afternoon, you’re in luck, because he’ll headline Union Transfer tonight with support from Lisa/Liza. For tickets and more information, head over, as always, to XPN’s Concert Calendar.
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