While his melancholy brand of string- and sample-laden indie pop has netted comparisons to Stephin Merritt and Belle & Sebastian, Swedish export Jens Lekman seems more inclined to align himself with the late James Brown. "I consider myself the hardest-working man in showbiz," he says. And now that the Godfather of Soul has gone to the great gig in the sky, Lekman just might be right.
After a year and a half of nonstop touring, recording, and re-recording, the 26-year-old's long-delayed third CD, Night Falls Over Kortedala, finally arrived in the U.S. last month. It's an epic and elegant affair, ripe with Lekman's trademark blend of gushing romanticism, offbeat humor, and wall-of-sound sensibilities.
Over the years, a fine balance between heartbreak and lightheartedness has kept Lekman on a fast track to crossover success. "That's something I've always carried with me," he says. "But early on, I was comically retarded. Every time I tried to make people laugh, they would cry. And every time I would try to make people think something very serious, they would laugh."
These days, Lekman's highly personal songs usually elicit sobs and giggles at the same time. And they're drawing an ever-increasing legion of fans — some of whom began impersonating the singer-songwriter online after he shut down his official MySpace page last spring. "It's really beautiful — all the Jens Lekman clones," he laughs. "It's like an army of me, doing their own things and coming up with their own ideas. I love it!"