Northside Festival has ended

Jens Lekman

Sweden’s Jens Lekman brings an uncommon wit and humanity to his songs, detailing his vulnerabilities with a smooth baritone. First drawing attention for his 2004 debut, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog, Lekman is the latest in a long line of songwriters too smart for their own good. He picks up the torch of slight disappointment passed over the decades from Scott Walker to Jonathan Richman to Morrissey to Stuart Murdoch. But the even keel of his melodies, and the deadpan of his voice seem more well-adjusted, more strangely optimistic than all of them. Oh You’re So Silent Jens, a 2005 collection of pre-album EPs and singles, brought Lekman further acclaim and stands as something of a perfect document of indie-pop in the last decade. Its songs clarified his connection to artists like The Left Banks, Belle and Sebastian, and Beat Happening by singing along with them, building his narratives, at times, around pieces of their music. (His sampling techniques were a breakthrough for a genre that always features a lot of homage, but not a lot of direct acknowledgment.) 2007′s Night Falls Over Kortedala further developed his knack for wringing relatable lovesickness from short-story detail. Rather than settle for standard pop-song vagueness, he understands that specifics can also be a key to universality, that people project their own lives in distinct situations. It doesn’t hurt that his string-assisted melodies or so often angelic, though. The slightly Caribbean bounce of last year’s An Argument With Myself EP may or may not predict the direction of the new material he’s been stockpiling these past few years. Northside is thrilled he’s back, either way.