As the KNDS Radio Music Director, I spend a lot of my time listening to music. My ear is tuned to notice the albums that force you to pay attention the first time through.
“Life Will See You Now” is not one of those albums, and I almost wrote it off as a result. It’s gentle. It’s thoughtful. Despite my initial indifference, it grew on me until I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
I’ve been a fan of Lekman’s music for a long time. His second album, “Night Falls Over Kortedala,” came out when I was in high school, and some of those songs still bring up vivid memories of that year.
It’s been 10 years since that album was released, but a lot of things have stayed the same. Lekman’s voice is powerful, soulful and occasionally melancholic. Even more integral to Lekman’s particular brand of music, and the skill that shines best here, is his command of storytelling.
The album opens with “To Know Your Mission,” a song about a Mormon missionary, which actually isn’t about religion at all. The missionary encounters a young Jens Lekman, who asks, “Instead of talking about religion can we just talk about how it feels / to know your mission?”
Unusual as it may be, it feels right that Lekman himself would be just another character in his music, trying to find his sense of purpose.
Ultimately, much of this album deals with the challenges of navigating uncertain relationships. “How Can I Tell Him” finds Lekman wondering how to tell his best friend that he loves him.
In “Evening Prayer,” Lekman struggles to help a friend recovering from the removal of a tumor, singing, “It’s been a long, hard year / for a friend who’s not sure if he’s close enough/ to be allowed to care”.
Even while much of this album harkens directly back to his previous music, it has its own distinctive flavor. Many songs demonstrate influence from calypso, samba and disco styles I might one have called incompatible with Lekman.
Listen for them in “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel” and “Wedding in Finistère.” These songs prove why “Life Will See You Now” deserves to be February’s Album of the Month. Lekman expertly weaves new influences into music that is still distinctly his own, and the result is an album worth listening to over and over again.
McKinley Theobald is the KNDS Music Director. Theobald is also the DJ for Mountain Sounds, a show for new music in a variety of genres every Friday at 5 p.m. Listen at 96.3 FM or online at kndsradio.org