Jens Lekman’s Life Will See You Know is propelled by an emphasis on tropical music and the Swedish musician’s sonorous croon and eclectic instrumentation. It once again finds Lekman employing striking sensory imagery in his acutely detailed recollections about friends and lovers. The singer-songwriter views even commonplace occurrences and observations with a sense of wonder; for him, something as simple as the fragrance from a bottle of hotel shampoo can tap into vivid memories and emotions.
The evocative vignettes presented throughout the album find universal themes in Lekman’s confessional, hyper-specific storytelling. Despite his pervasively upbeat tone, Lekman doesn’t shy away from heavy subject matter, especially when confronting existential fears. He shines a light on internalized anxieties that can stunt emotional growth on “Postcard #17,” before emphatically calling out the source of those fears as “fucking ridiculous.” Externalizing and closely examining fear of death becomes literal on “Evening Prayer,” as he sings of a friend who 3D-prints a replica of his removed tumor so he can carry it around in his pocket because “it looks kind of cool.”
Elsewhere, Lekman tackles the tangled complexities of interpersonal relationships, as on the cheery, steel-drum-and-bongo-driven “What’s That Perfume That You Wear?,” in which he finds a silver lining to lost love because “At least it was real/If it could hurt like that.” He frequently returns to images of walking through cities and along waterfronts and harbors, and this ambulation runs counter to the mental states of his characters, who’re often people frozen in a given moment as they reminisce about the past. The exception is “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel,” which is as mischievously whimsical as its title suggests and celebrates a rare instance of impulsivity over introspection as Lekman details passing by seagulls and sleeping seals to jump the fence of a vacant fairground so he can “live a little.”
Lekman does drift into maudlin territory at times, like when he invokes the “rusty old padlock hanging on our hearts” to describe how some straight men have a difficult time saying “I love you” to each other (“How Can I Tell Him”), or in the trite mention of “the smile that only you smile” (“Our First Fight”). He also stumbles on opener “Know Your Mission,” as his attention to specific details leads him to shoehorn in late-‘90s references to Princess Diana, Chumbawamba, and Puff Daddy that distract more than add dimension.
Ultimately, Lekman finds ways to counterbalance his indulgence in specifics by broadening his scope, such as on “How We Met, the Long Version,” where he playfully recounts the history of the universe from the Big Bang forward, or on the Latin-music-inflected “Wedding in Finistère,” where he likens various impressionable age groups watching social rites of passage to his own childlike wonderment at the things he can’t yet comprehend. Through the intricacies of Life Will See You Now, Lekman philosophizes about the profound with references to the incidental, encapsulating the transfixing nature of fleeting moments that can nevertheless come to define a life.