(7 out of 10)
It’s understandable that lots of folks like to draw parallels between the music of Jens Lekman and, say, Morrissey or Belle & Sebastian. Why? Because there are a whole lot of similarities there, to be sure. But more than either of those two indie mainstays, the artist that Lekman most reminds this writer of is Steely Dan. This is not because Lekman’s voice is reminiscent of Donald Fagen’s, or that his arrangements evoke fern-bar coke binges in the same way that Steely Dan’s does. No, it’s because, more than anything else, Jens Lekman’s music is uncannily precise. His lyrics (florid, yet specific) and his music (expansive, yet tightly-wound) combine to make songs that unspool themselves in a way that’s rooted in a precision that makes it clinically effective, while being somewhat emotionally detached—much like the entirety of Aja.
That’s not to say Lekman doesn’t know how to have fun; in fact, this EP’s opening track comes off like a seriously goofy flight of lyrical fancy. But while the title track has a from-the-hip vibe—”fuck you, no you fuck you”—Lekman’s dense construction of words and sounds begs for closer inspection; he’s telling a story and he really wants you to pay attention. And, for the most part, An Argument With Myself is definitely worthy of a closer look. Although it only clocks in at 17 minutes, this five-song EP is a pleasantly jumbled affair that shows Lekman’s lyrical facility continues to improve, while his stylistic palette continues to broaden; he has moved well beyond the simple, twee clone-work of his earliest releases. Little filigrees of baroque pop decorate stiff, self-conscious funk (“New Directions”), while gently warm acoustic numbers like “Waiting for Kirsten” are rendered into slow-burning, handclap-ready tunes.
First appeared Sept. 20, 2011 in Paste.