Jens Lekman produces enough witticisms and oddball humor in his new EP An Argument with Myself to convince someone that he’s actually a sarcastic English-lit major moonlighting as a Swedish indie-pop musician. Indeed, while listening to his songs, I felt distracted – in a good way – by his lyrics from the actual music, which is a shame because I thought the music was quite interesting itself. Archaic string samples and percussion beats with a more international flare are heavily dispersed throughout Lekman’s guitar-based pop. Definitely interesting, but sometimes a bit out of place – this time, not in a good way. The samples work when they seamlessly weave themselves throughout a song like in “Waiting for Kristen.” But in the very next “Promise”, the snazzy strings overtake Lekman’s vocal and make the song seem like sleazy elevator music.
His lyrics are what shine throughout the EP. In the song “An Argument with Myself” Lekman beautifully narrates himself walking through Melbourne, Australia, lost and without enough cash for a taxi ride back, and surrounded by rowdy young backpackers. Lyrics like “And now I’m walking by Bev and Mick’s backpacker hostel on Victoria Street/Where it’s reggae night tonight/And the backpackers are pouring out like a tidal wave of vomit” convince me that Lekman is a poet, a modern day bard. I sense a short story within these lyrics because they paint an intriguing scenario so well.
“An Argument with Myself” is probably the best song on the EP. Lekman’s stunning lyricism in that song, however, does not carry over through the rest of the album. In the final “So This Guy at My Office” is as dull as you’d expect of everyday office gossip. Lekman disappointingly resorts to clichés “Lalalala . . . I love you” and overuses samples that I imagine were popular in department stores in the 80s.
Lekman, however, is honest. He is refreshingly honest, in fact. In his final song, he sings “I’m sorry I’m babbling,” which is exactly what he is doing in the last half of the EP. His more thought-out songs in the first half are expectedly much better music, so I appreciate his apology at the end because he’s capable of making great music . . . when he’s not just “babbling.”
– Soo Suh