Troubadours and soothsayers: Jens Lekman and David Bowie

Jens Lekman – Life Will See You Now

A decade ago, this Swede released Night Falls Over Kortedala, an album of singer-songwriter would-be pop whose romantic fables began and ended with jokes, usually at the expense of the Pagliacci singing them. Bona Drag-era Morrissey was the closest analog, given Jens Lekman’s weakness for adverbs and meter-breaking verse. In a not exactly prolific career, Life Will See You Now represents the conventional sort of tiptoe forward: the singer-songwriter discovers electronic instruments when he really should’ve been playing with them fifteen years ago. On “Dandelion Seed” and “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel” the results are not dissimilar to Grant McLennan’s solo debut Watershed or The Roches’ Speak — the essentially static music gets its melodies goosed by presets and programmed strings. Not only have I learned to love Jens Lekman’s voice, but I appreciate how its off key dolor is a correlatives to songs whose insight and quiet Linus-with-a-pet-blanket wit redress their own dolorous qualities. A troubadour, a ham, Lekman can sing “the lonely cry of the seagull/’Let’s do something illegal'” and not mind courting foolishness. He’ll plunder the Whispers for beats (“How We Met, the Long Version”) and Romeo Santos for lithesome guitar curlicues (“Our First Fight”).

David Bowie – No Plan

Comprising “Lazarus” plus three outtakes, this EP presents a Bowie more open about the final hurrah. Some might adduce this frailty as a sign of the late generalist’s “humanity,” although why we insist on insulting this man thirteen months after his death saddens me. Giving no fucks about admitting how in this age of grand delusion marriage saved his life, honest about the deterioration that would eventually claim it, Bowie nevertheless sounds like the oblique, slightly fuzzy of outline carbon-based life form he was at the apex of his powers. Even when he’s trying to be a cornball his fantastic band complements him with discordant notes. Enjoy it – as John Quincy Adams said on his death bed, “This is the last of earth.”

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