My friend Eugenie introduced me to Jens. She put a song on a mix CD for me, and I really liked it. I picked up his EP collection Oh You’re So Silent, Jens. And he just released Night Falls last year.
Jens’ voice is unique. He’s got a Swedish accent, and his sing-speaks quite softly, so some of the words are quite heavily accented. And, his songs are quite fantastic. The lyrics are bizarre and wonderful. While his songs aren’t funny, per se, there are a number of lines that are just hilarious, even on multiple listens. In the past his songs were more or less acoustic affairs. On this one, he expands somewhat with some brass on a few tracks, some hip-hop flavorings and well, just about everything else.
Lekman released a twenty minute DJ track on his website last year. And it’s clear that the mash up qualities of that release influenced his recording sessions for Night Falls. It opens with the orchestral pomp of “And I Remember Every Kiss,” and the catchy, if inscrutable “The Opposite of Hallelujah. ” This leads to the great “A Postcard to Nina” which provides Jens’ loudest moment of a screamed/sung “Oh God, what have I done! I just came here to have some fun.” There is no screaming on the simple, gorgeous “Your Arms Around Me,” even though he cuts of the tip of his finger in it. “Shirin” is all about his haircutter (hence the album cover) and the repeated name makes for a lovely chorus. And, I can’t not talk about the last song “Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo,” one of his most rocking songs (rocking being relative). It has a thrown-together, raucous feel, getting faster as the song moves along. It also has this wonderfully bizarre clarinet/saxophone/something line over the top of it that perfectly recalls an old-timey mournful swing band that you might hear at a church bingo function from thirty years ago. The song is funny and silly, and wholly enjoyable. And I can’t think of another song like it anywhere.
[READ: July 2, 2008] “The Magic Olympics”
There are two reasons why I’m mentioning this article. The first is that a few months ago I had read Paul Quarrington’s The Spirit Cabinet and had seen The Illusionist a couple days apart. This article also explains some magic tricks which, rather than spoiling the effect, really makes you marvel at the skill of the magicians. Two, the opening of the article reminded me a lot of Arrested Development, our beloved TV show. On the show, Gob was an illusionist in a magician’s guild. Not only do such guilds exist, but you can, in fact, be blackballed from them. (“The United States has three: the Academy of Magical Arts,the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and the Society of American Magicians.”) And you must belong to one to enter this International Competition. There’s also a guy who does a regurgitating trick which is exactly like Gob’s regurgitating key trick (except that it works in the article). I guess they did some real research into magic before writing Gob’s character.
So, this article is a fascinating look at Alex Stone’s attempt to win the 23rd “The World Championships of Magic,” this year’s held in Stockholm. Stone describes the contest in great detail, explaining that there are two main categories: stage magic & close-up magic. Stone works in sleight of hand, or close-up magic. He describes the acts that precede him, genuinely awed by some of the practitioners. I’m not going to give away the end in case you want to read it yourself. But there was some pretty extreme drama going on. I was amazed at how into the story I got, and how much I would like to see it myself.