Tuesday, 6 May 2008

a pocketful of money

If you're susceptible to really catchy songs, and don't have enough time for them right now, then please stop reading. Go listen to The Twang.

A few months ago, I went to see Jens Lekman in concert at the Nouveau Casino with my friend Sam. Got there a little late so didn't really catch much of the support. Started chatting with the girl who was running the merch stand, turns out she was meant to be the support but couldn't get a visa. I couldn't quite figure out why she was there anyway, given this visa issue, but I thought it was apt given the story of Lekman's song, Shirin, (for me the highlight of Kortedala) is about a woman who runs an illegal hair salon in her basement.

The show began, and despite the best efforts of some of his backing band, Lekman was brilliant. He would flit between full band songs and just himself and sparse guitar accompaniment. A Postcard From Nina (as previously described here) was performed beautifully, as Lekman described the story in far much more detail than the song actually alludes to, which had the effect of being quite funny.

Anyway, the main reason I feel compelled to write this post is the quality of last song that I saw. As it happens, Tapes 'n' Tapes were playing at another venue, La Fleche D'Or about a mile away. Sam really wanted to leave so we'd get there in time, as they weren't headlining so it would be tricky. Lekman was in the midst of various encores and everything was starting to get a bit disjointed, and also I was only familiar with the recent album, Night Falls Over Kortedala, so a lot of the other songs just went straight over my head.

However, Jens decided to try and create a bit of crowd participation, which is something I'm completely behind. Usually though, bands choose to divide the crowd into left and right which is the obvious thing to do I suppose (brilliant memory of seeing The Futureheads do this with Hounds of Love). Jens tore up the rulebook though and wanted the crowd to be divided into terms of vocal pitch - those with low voices (boys and girls) on one side, and those with higher voices (boys and girls). This humourous ploy had my attention anyway, but the fact that he then went on to play, unbeknown to me the best song (I'm being silly here, I haven't listened to the album enough yet) off Oh You're So Silent Jens, certainly heightened proceedings.

A Pocketful of Money is one of those songs that has a catchy vocal hook, which sears itself into the back of your brain and stays there for weeks on end. The song is about blowing all your money on a girl that you're completely head over for, and how she sets your heart on fire. Bit cheesy, you say? Perhaps, but everything's good in moderation and Lekman's music has a wonderful, saccharine quality that at times is a bit too much. He borrows a sample from Gravedigger Blues by Beat Happening, whom I can't really say I was that familiar with (sorry, stone me if you like!), but you can find it here. The low vocals from Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening work so well with Jens' melancholy cooing over the top. I dunno if it will set your heart on fire, but you won't be able to stop singing it for a while that's for sure.

Jens Lekman - Pocketful of Money

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We missed Tapes 'n' Tapes as well. But I wasn't really that bothered. Have only just got my hands on the aforemention Oh You're So Silent Jens. I'm somewhat worried I might have ruined the album by overplaying one of the songs too much. It's a real problem, don't you think?

Just found this on Pitchfork / YouTube. It sums up the audience participation I was mentioning, by drawing the audience in to a song that is incredibly catchy and incredibly personal, the embedding of the melody in your head is inevitable. See him live, he's playing in the UK soon.

This video here is quite nice too. Tries to make smoking look cool at the start though. Shameful. I don't think it's official.