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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lo-Fi goes hi-tech

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Jens Lekman has finally become a professional. After years of churning out lo-fi, sample-heavy pop — and dealing with the legal fallout when people actually started listening to his songs — he's graduated to the digital age. Gone are the crackling, dusty sounds that imbued songs like "Maple Leaves" with extra charm; now he attaches his lovelorn, crooner sentiments to polished, Pro-Tools music arrangements.

"And I Remember Every Kiss" opens the album unabashedly, grandiose and symphonic, replete with strings, horns and cavernous kettledrum like a 1950s standard, while "Sipping on the Sweet Nectar" struts Teflon-smooth Euro-via-Caribbean disco. His neglected modest roots manifest on the sparse, but crystalline folk-pop of "The Opposite of Hallelujah." But the closest he comes to his previous DIY idiosyncrasy is the closer, "Friday Night at the Drop-In Bingo." It's a roughshod combination of percussion, horns, and a cavalcade of other instruments that feels recorded during its first rehearsal.

Regardless of the mercurial backdrop, Lekman still showcases his life's most mundane (getting his hair cut), ridiculous (a trip to the hospital after slicing his finger while cutting an avocado) and heartbreaking (dumping an asthmatic girlfriend) moments through his lyrics. On "Into Eternity" he makes this profound metaphysical observation: "I have a love for this world/A kind of love that will break my heart/A kind of love that reconstructs and remodels the past." It's this self-awareness that allows him to craft such touching, personal songs that speak so clearly and universally to those of us caught in the same search as him.

Editor's Note: This week, we're cleaning out the closets, so to speak, and reviewing a bunch of worthy releases that fell between the cracks in '07.

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