Jens Lekman

The master of disguise is back with an even more cloaked album than 2005's fantastic Oh You're So Silent Jens. Night Falls Over Kortedala is 12 songs packed full of bone dry wit, ludicrously surreal observations and expert irony. But as usual they all come heavily masked in cheese and do their best to convince you they're nothing but throwaway tat. His skill is two pronged. He undercuts his grand notions of love by filling them with the common-place, but then he'll sing about the common-place using enormous, sweeping musical arrangements. No one but this guy could construct such wonderfully heartfelt love songs while mentioning avocados and asthma inhalers, or explain the tax repercussions of secretly running a beauty salon from your own apartment by way of the most perfect, floaty pop song.

Kortedala refers to a neighborhood in Jens' hometown of Gothenburg in all its depressing insularity. In his own words Jens explains, "My record basically never leaves the 30 square metres that I live on until the very last song when I take a short bus ride to the countryside in Friday Night At The Drive-in Bingo." The deep irony of these songs lies in Jens' ability to create some of the most uplifting and buoyantly joyful sounds while describing this suburban hell he lives in. He goes on, "Everyone goes to bed at nine, after that you can't see one single window lit up...But it's the atmosphere and the small incidents that scare me. The guys who yell faggot at me when I pass their balcony, the Nazis hanging out in a nearby garage...In Kortedala everyone minds 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."

After the opening swell of the string section in And I Remember Every Kiss, Jens' glorious croon caries us through this modern-day kitchen sink drama with unfailing optimism. During tragic anecdotes like The Opposite Of Hallelujah's line "I picked up a seashell to illustrate my loneliness, but a crab crawled out making it useless," Jens maintains this rosy outlook. Tales of love are never cut and dry with Lekman, whether he's fallen in love with his barber in Shirin or pretending to be the boy friend of his lesbian friend during a difficult dinner with her father as in Postcard To Nina. The upshot to this fateful dinner is explained in Lekman's line "Your father's mailing me all the time, says he just wants to say hi, I send back out-of-office auto reply."

Each of these delightfully tragic stories is told in a myriad of high-kicking, tongue-in-cheek musical ways from cheap calypso to full on Strictly Ballroom drama. If you fail to recognise the irony in Lekman's work then it will be lost to you and the one criticism of this record is that this irony is more disguised than ever here. The cheery campness of the music can sometimes be too much to bear. But I guess it all depends on the mood you're in. This album presents Lekman as a truly unique talent. It has all the dry wit of a loved-up Morrissey but dresses it all up in the most hideous sunday best.