Published Aug 14, 2012There's no better subject to write a song about than love, whether you're in it, out of it, regretting it or longing for it. Swedish singer-songwriter Jens Lekman wasn't planning on writing an album about it, especially one based on his break-up. In fact, he was purposely trying to avoid doing it. But when it came time to write his long overdue third full-length, the Gothenburg native kept thinking about his failed relationship. Five years after Night Falls Over Kortedala, Jens has returned with his most personal record yet in I Know What Love Isn't. The wittiest pop wordsmith since Steven Patrick Morrissey, Jens was born to tackle heartbreak. Jens may have kept us waiting longer than we wanted, but by taking his time and falling in and out of love he ended up with I Know What Love Isn't, an album worth waiting another five years for.
What made you decide to write a break-up record?
I started trying to get away from that by writing songs that were more abstract and imagery-based, and just writing to see where it would take me. A lot of the songs on the record, I had no idea where they were heading. Like Joan Didion said, "I wrote to find out what I was thinking." I was thinking about the break-up. It was a bit of a failure in one sense, but it was a journey I had to take.
Is there a lesson to be learned from the story on the album?
I didn't like the idea of lessons or conclusions, but if there was one conclusion it would be this one song where I sing, "You don't get over a broken heart, you just learn to carry it gracefully." Which I think is the one key phrase on the album and the one thing I had in mind, because I think closure is a modern invention. I didn't really believe in closure when I made this record. The funny thing that happened when I started doing interviews was that people would bring their preview copies of the album, which I hadn't seen at that point. They would put them on the table and I would think, "That's that. That is the last three years of my life. And all of those feelings are in there." It really did feel like someone had raised a tombstone for the last few years of my life. Now I can just raise a candle and move on.
What is the story behind "Some Dandruff On Your Shoulder"?
That song came out of me realizing the record was going into heartbreak territory. The one problem I had with that was there are so many songs for the broken-hearted, but not enough songs for the ones who have to bear the burden of breaking someone's heart. I think that's what that song is about. Being the one that first realizes that you're not in love anymore. I didn't know how to write that and I just started thinking about the feeling of realizing you have to break someone's heart. I don't know where the lyrics came from; I just started writing and that's where it took me.
Read a review of I Know What Love Isn't here.