Jens Lekman Maple Leaves / Rocky Dennis

After releasing a slew of songs in Sweden under both his real name and Rocky Dennis (the central character in the film Mask), Lekman has decided to stick with the former for these North American releases. While the gentle sounding Swede does tip his hat to Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt in both tone and lyrical subject matter, the music itself is much brighter, more optimistic. The Maple Leaves EP contains the outstanding minor hit "Black Cab,” where the self-deprecating Lekman explains, "I killed the party again / I ruined it for my friends” over a catchy guitar melody of "There She Goes” calibre. The Rocky Dennis EP has a more polished sound, especially on the lead-in track "Rocky Dennis’ Farewell Song To The Blind Girl” or "Jens Lekman’s Farewell Song To Rocky Dennis.” Puzzling titles aside, these are remarkably accomplished, albeit brutally twee gems of songs. He manages to pull off the often-difficult task of marrying sullen subject matter with uplifting musical arrangements. His deft way of approaching ballads is his strong point so far, although a full album is in the works that may have a few surprises in store for us. Notorious for his early lo-fi recordings, the instrumentation and lush sound on these EPs is impressive. His use of piano, strings, flute, xylophone and other assorted instruments shows off the talent that lies within this gifted young songwriter. (Secretly Canadian)