There’s a passage in Anthony Bourdain’s exquisite travel and food opus A Cook’s Tour where the author rhapsodies on the ethos of the famous French Laundry restaurant in California’s Napa Valley. The success of the restaurant and the vision of its chef Thomas Keller is, Bourdain theorises, due to the intertwining of food with memory. Keller’s signature creations – such as miniature ice cream cones filled with salmon tartare – play on existing memory (that of childhood treats) and use nostalgia, formative experiences and invention to achieve their goals.
The very same could be said about Jens Lekman, whose records regularly riff on the familiar-made-new. Night Falls Over Kortedala owed much of its success to respectful nods at variety of genres and sounds – taking in soul loops, Tropicalia flourishes and lyrical conceits that bridged the gap between Morrissey and Stipe. And it did all of this in a way that didn’t feel contrived, plagiarised or dumb.
Listening to Lekman for me feels like I’ve come to a brand new place that somehow feels like home; safe, beautiful but with familiar features and an underlying atosphere of comfort and nourishment.
So a new song by Jens Lekman is a big event in my world – and ‘The End of the World Is Bigger Than Love’ is indeed a big song. While it’s archetypal Lekman through and through – layered, lush and deftly produced withough feeling overloaded – there’s a very real and noticeable development from Night Falls Over Kortadela that hints at where the next record might go.
String arrangements vaguely reminiscent of the Richard Hawley sound and an elegant chorus with a knowing crib from Weiss, Peretti and Creatore’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ are combined with a classic Jens lyric. As usual, heavy amounts of pathos dominate and a juxtaposition of the mundane with the poetic; in his own description of the song Lekman has explained “[it examines a world that] forces you to keep your head held high and move on. A world that is fragile and beautiful.”
Trying to describe the song or evaluate it any further than this would be folly. Emotional response is the most important thing about receiving music. It cuts through all the critical bullshit, all the preconceptions, all the hipstery ephemera.
All that matters is this: I heard this song for the first time this morning and my heart melted.