Jens Lekman probably gets misunderstood a lot, and followers of his music and his blog musings might well surmise that he quite enjoys the fact; even cultivates it, perhaps. An unabashed pop songwriter, a writer of love songs, he can be deadpan, self-effacing and deliciously mordant but never shows a hint of Stephin Merritt’s raised eyebrow, say, or Rufus Wainwright’s theatricality. Rather, his studiously northern-European take on classic pop forms resonates with the same love for the form, magpie curiosity and cool detatchment as Erlend Oye, Edwyn Collins or compatriots Tough Alliance.
The careful pace of his sporadic releases since 2004 belies the seriousness with which he takes his craft; there’s a fascinating imprecision to his methods, though, as if he’d methodically carved a perfect template and then traced around it with his weaker hand. The pop, soul and indie samples and interpolations that he’s folded into his work since day one – from Beat Happening, Arab Strap and Belle & Sebastian to Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Shangri-Las and The Left Banke – can be a sweetly clumsy, uncomfortable fit, but only add to a sense of timelessness created by the sweeping strings, Motown handclaps, dry but affecting first-person lyrics and Lekman’s soaring baritone croon. These echoes of the past are something he clearly feels are integral, but at the same time not something to be hero-worshipped; the way vocal and string parts are shoehorned into the mix (and his own well-documented frustrations with sample clearance law) are romantic, frustrated idealism writ large. It’s intoxicating stuff.
Of course, you could just swoon to the soul rhythms, the disco strings, the indiepop heart-tugging and the colour-coded live band of Jean Seberg-esque Swedish girls. Probably way more fun than over-thinking it. It’s just pop music, after all.
Thekla, The Grove, East Mud Dock, Bristol BS1 4RB
EARLY SHOW: Doors 7pm / £13 adv / Ages 18+