Jens Lekman: A Genius in Hiding

Jens Lekman: A Genius in Hiding

Phil Reidy

Jens Lekman

Once again the ‘Pole returns to harvest from the culturally-rich lands of Scandinavia with Swedish artist Jens Lekman (the Jens is pronounced Yens), and we can all be thankful for this as-of-now underground pop-rock musician slowly on the rise. Lekman’s adeptness in sampling other artists’ work and creating unique, original riffs has produced in him an artist with great potential. After hearing Lekman for the first time, you would be surprised to learn that he is a Swede despite his proficient understanding of English and his use of idioms, a skill un-mastered even by those who consider English their first language. Reminiscent of Belle and Sebastian and the Arctic Monkeys, Lekman often uses lyrics and phrases probably familiar to the British fan, displaying an advanced knowledge of English through his song lyrics alone.

Lekman’s style reflects a growing movement among the underground music scene in sampling other artists. Lekman often manages to splice a song perhaps identifiable to some into one of his own works, but often it becomes such a distant melody, altered or hidden under the wide instrumental layers Lekman puts into his work. Avoiding the path of most alternative musicians who sample, however, Lekman prefers to refine his style with a great deal of effort put into his own original content, featuring whole choirs and string quartets, mashed together with catchy piano and guitar riffs while following in the shoes of other alternative names like rap group Das Racist and solo artist DJ Premier, whose sampling of other songs has been a fixture of their individual styles throughout their careers. Lekman, though falling into the category of pop-rock, utilizes samples as often or even more than many other alternative artists. Artists like Glen Campbell, the Mamas and Papas, and John Mayer are among the sources Lekman draws from, infusing his songs with samples that may or may not be picked up by the focused listener, and probably not even detected by the casual one.

A personal favorite from Lekman is Somebody Else’s, with a catchy, fast-paced piano riff and a bouncy beat that just breathes happy-go-lucky. Lekman covers the struggle of relationships, both in this song and in his other work as well. Like Belle and Sebastian, his sound is soft, and the subjects of his songs are mostly on the subject of gaining a new love or the loss of an old, his choice of lyrical content indicative of his fanbase: young English-speaking soul-searchers. Lekman’s rise has been a prolonged one, never really breaking the barrier between small-time cult-affection in his European fanbase and the sprinkling of international fans who have occasionally given him sold-out shows. His unique and diverse style has unfortunately caused some listeners to seek out safer, more familiar choices, but a second-listen is a must for potential fans seeking out a talented and unique artist like Lekman.