“This guy is crazy,” my friend declared as he turned up the volume on the first Jens Lekman song I ever heard. The song was Black Cab and I was too embarrassed to admit it at the time, but it was one of the most sane things I’d ever heard in my life: a hilarious but heartrending anthem for anyone who leaves the party full of self-recrimination, mentally replaying countless social exchanges and analyzing them to death. It was equal parts pop and ballad, humor and melancholy, absurdity and poetry. But most of all, it was just so gobsmackingly human. Listening to this song was like making an adult friend with a sweet, sensitive, smart person whose punch lines are so organic he doesn’t even watch for the laughter to follow.
The canon of Lekman’s work includes songs about such things as:
- the exquisite beauty of being held by a loved one after slicing his fingertip off, passing out, and winding up in the emergency room
- trying to meet Kirsten Dunst when she was shooting Melancholia in Gothenburg, Sweden
- hoping that he’ll be wearing cowboy boots in his next dream, shoes he hopes will give him the swagger he needs to move on from a long since failed relationship
- acting as a friend’s boyfriend to help her hide the fact that she’s gay from her family
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be adult friends with this guy?
And what more could you ask of an artist? Jens Lekman has built his own poetics. And Black Cab is that first tale he tells you when you’re both checking your respective mailboxes just long enough to strike up your first conversation.
(Song recommendation by Tom Stern)