Jens Lekman, Songs for Autumn

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Do you find that certain songs belong to specific seasons?

For instance, the Hold Steady’s Stuck Between Stations (as reviewed by Matt on this site) was my tune of the summer. What is it about these songs or albums that just seem to have a seasonal quality to them? Is it the genre or the lyric that defines whether we feel summer or winter while listening? Songs that reference a season (summer being the most likely) or obviously take place in the hot sun or blowing snow are going to make us picture certain things. But I’m thinking less about such obvious tunes and more about those times when music just feels winter, spring, summer, or—as is the case for me with Jens Lekman—autumn.

Lekman is a young Swedish musician whose sound varies widely depending on, well, a lot of things. Will it be the sample-heavy Lekman who shows up? Or the stripped down version: lonseome figure on stage with a ukulele? Or perhaps the conductor of a brass and strings orchestra, sounding vaguley like fellow globe-trotter Zach Condon of Beruit?

But to the issue at hand: What it is that makes Lekman’s music autumn-esque? I was wondering about that as I rode my scooter through the fall wind this afternoon, riding over crunchy leaves, listening to a few of this swede’s latest tunes. Autumn is a season of opposites: leaves dying, yet brilliantly alive in their color. The frost has killed the last of the tomatoes, but the same cold air opens our our eyes wide to life. Watching the rapidly changing sky as I rode home, it felt as though Jens Lekman captured these opposites.

Like Condon and Sufjan Stevens, the often upbeat and whimsical music behind Leckman’s lyrics could almost distract from the stories being told. It’s a tension that makes this music feel like autumn. Lekman’s latest, “Night Falls Over Kortedala” takes it’s name from a suburb of which he says,

“What a depressing suburban hell this place is. Everyone goes to bed at nine, after that you can’t see one single window lit up…everyone’s minding their own business. And I’m slowly turning into one of them so as soon as I’ve finished this record I will get the hell out of here.”

And somehow, even a place like Kortedala can inspire a song like The Opposite of Hallelujah (lyrics below).  Maybe that’s the autumn in this album: from a “suburban hell” come songs of beauty and life.

After watching the studio version, make sure to watch this lower quality concert version which has a completely different feel.

The Opposite of Hallelujah
Jens Lekman

I took my sister down to the ocean
But the ocean made me feel stupid
Those words of wisdom I had prepared
All seemed to vanish into thin air
Into the waves I stared

I picked up a seashell
To illustrate my homelessness
But a crab crawled out of it
Making it useless

And all my metaphors fell flat
Down on the rocks where we sat
She asked where are you at?

But sister, it’s the opposite of hallelujah
It’s the opposite of being you
You don’t know ’cause it just passes right through you
You don’t know what I’m going through

You don’t know what I’m going through
You don’t know what I’m going through
You don’t know what I’m going through

We made our way home on the bikes we had borrowed
I still never told you about unstoppable sorrow
You still think I’m someone to look up to
I still don’t know anything about you
Is it in you too?

You’ve got so much to live for, little sister
You’ve got so much to live for