It would be easy to write off Jens Lekman as yet another fragile Swedish songwriter who plays mostly upbeat songs that are actually about heartache. In ways that would be infuriating from almost any other artist, he’s endlessly self-referencing and tours with a gimmicky (but very talented) all-female backing band. Yet somehow, despite his precious, funny, sometimes melancholy personality being the sole focus of everything he does, his music is still singularly great. All of Lekman’s records are collections of songs about random funny things that happen to him, sometimes surprisingly poignant and sometimes not. Night Falls Over Kortedala finds him in Berlin trying to convince a lesbian friend’s dad the two are a couple, in an emergency room after a hug gone awry (Jens Lekman in a nutshell), and at a party, trying in vain to flirt with a deaf girl. Nothing’s really changed on his end, though something about Kortedala feels cleaner than his past records.
Lekman’s basic layout was that his songs were sort of played on a guitar or ukelele while random string or harp samples actually held the tune. He’s either using less samples on this record, or he’s working the same amount in a lot more smoothly — in either case, it’s harder to hear the rough edges. In turn, though, it feels like he just recently discovered an orchestra at his fingertips. Big, grand songs like ‘And I Remember Every Kiss’ and tighter ones like ‘Your Arms Around Me’ alike get the John Williams treatment. The only exception is the comparably bare ‘I Am Leaving You Because I Don’t Love You,’ which is also possibly the best song on the record. It is, as the song says, “brutally, honestly cold,” but what really makes it is the sample — four swung bars of a tinkling piano looped endlessly, sounding like it’s rubbing itself off the record every time it repeats. It’s got the warm, almost lo-fi sound of his early EPs that, though largely missing from this record, pops up just enough to make clear that Lekman hasn’t really changed at all.