On Life Will See You Now—Jens Lekman’s fourth full-length album amidst many EPs and 2015’s song-a-week project called Postcards—the Swedish singer/songwriter seems to encapsulate his new emotional direction in one couplet. Two-and-a-half-minutes into “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel,” a sultry synth-rock tune that’s only broken by soft strumming from his classical guitar and swan-diving violin sweeps, Lekman sings, “If you’re gonna write a song about this / please don’t make it a sad song.”
Lyrically, that’s exactly the opposite of some of his best tracks from 2012’s I Know What Love Isn’t, which enabled listeners to laugh through their heartbreak. Lekman’s highly specific lyrics pinpointed moments of exasperation, clever exaggeration, and brutal honesty about trying to find love and then recover from it. Instead, Life Will See You Now explores the existential fears and ramifications of life decisions that get you to where you are, especially in your 30s. Sometimes those moments yield a sad pensiveness, but other times, he’s spelling out “I love you” letter by letter in “Our First Fight.” So, as he promises in the subsequent line in “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel,” “And I said / Okay, if I have to write a song about this / I promise I won’t make it a sad song.”
Still, it’s Lekman’s playfully indulgent musical evolution that differentiates Life Will See You Now from his previous efforts. “Evening Prayer” saunters in on a lit-up floor with an almost disco-like intro of doo-doo-doo’s that return post-choruses. Later, Steel drums feature prominently on “What’s That Perfume You Wear?” And throughout, Lekman employs synth beats, calypso rhythms and gospel singers to actualize his creative vision. The result is engaging, if not terribly lasting.