When critics talk about the resurgence of Scandinavian music on a global scale, they usually touch on esoteric electronic artists and creepy singer songwriters. Unique, sure, but there’s only one artist from that region who truly embodies modern music. The most mild mannered man in Sweden, Jens Lekman, has some truly special moments on his newest EP, An Argument With Myself, an effort that appeals to both layfolk and snobs alike.
It has been a while since Lekman had released an album proper, the single “The End of The World Is Bigger Than Love” was released between 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala and An Argument With Myself, but it was a quiet and, for fans, a worrisome time. But for those who clamored for new material, a tour, any indication that the brilliantly irreverent songwriter hadn’t moved on to something new should be more than pleased with this EP.
Trading in samples for steel drums, Jekman certainly changes his sound on An Argument With Myself, but his more sunny and tropical approach is just as engaging as anything previous. The ambition and creativity of previous works is here as well, this time relying more on lyrical punctuation than musical infusions. On “So This Guy at My Office,” Lekman scales back some of the pop elements and creates more of a simple-songwriter-meets-drinks-on-the-beach vibe, lamenting the annoyance of a coworker. The complaints are slight, and disguised in the rather pleasant music, you hardly notice they are there. But that’s the brilliance, when Lekman sings that his coworker “showed me this video, and it was not even funny,” especially in Lekman’s matter of fact voice, it takes you a good second to realize what he meant. There are moments when it’s rather blatant as well. Take the title track for instance, when Lekman yells “fuck you! No you fuck you!” it’s hard not to giggle. But for as silly as the lyrics might get, there’s something about Lekman’s delivery that makes the entire effort seem sincere, that despite cursing himself, this Swede isn’t going mad or making a joke.
And although the lyrical quips might be the best part of An Argument With Myself, the music on some of the tracks is close to Lekman’s finest work to date. “New Directions” has become one of my favorite tracks of the year, a brilliant mix of horns and surf guitar, female vocal choruses and hand claps. For me, it’s the perfect song. Lekman’s warm vocals compliment the upbeat and tropical music, and the saxophone solo in the middle of the track is nothing short of grin-inducing.
“From this point you will never be alone”; the last line on “New Directions” displays the perfect balance that Lekman has achieved on An Argument With Myself, showcasing that he can be both playful and heartwarming. It’s as tight and well produced an album as I’ve heard in a long time, and maybe that’s the advantage of putting out an EP, but An Argument With Myself is nothing short of spectacular at any length, crowning Lekman as one of today’s most fascinating and gifted musicians.