Sweden's Jens Lekman emerged from relative obscurity to quickly establish himself as the darling of the global indie pop set, winning widespread acclaim from fans and critics for his uncommonly witty and well-crafted pop songs.
Born February 6, 1981, in Gothenburg, Sweden, Lekman exhibited little interest in music as a child, but at 14 was recruited to play bass in a friend's cover band. Within weeks he was writing his own original material, quickly accumulating hundreds of songs. Assuming the alias Rocky Dennis (borrowed from the disfigured protagonist of the 1985 American film Mask), Lekman recorded and released a series of limited-edition CD-Rs beginning with 2001's The Budgie-Album.
A year later, he compiled a collection of highlights and mailed the sole copy to U.S. indie label Secretly Canadian, but remained largely unknown until the 2003 EP Maple Leaves became something of a cause célèbre on Internet file-sharing services. The Swedish indie Service Records reissued Maple Leaves later that same year, and after abandoning his pseudonym once and for all with 2004's Rocky Dennis in Heaven EP, Lekman issued his acclaimed full-length debut, When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog, distributed in the U.S. via Secretly Canadian. The LP generated the Swedish Top Ten hit "You Are the Light," and in 2005 Lekman traveled the globe, issuing several tour-only EPs and collecting his previous singles, B-sides, and compilation tracks as Oh You're So Silent Jens.
Following this flurry of activity, he announced on his website plans for an extended hiatus from performing, scrapping a planned sophomore LP and reportedly accepting a position at a local bingo parlor; Lekman nevertheless quit after just two days on the job and fully rededicated himself to his musical pursuits. This dedication paid off with the release of 2007's stunning album Night Falls Over Kortadela. After touring for a year, moving to Melbourne, Australia for a couple years (where he worked on music and DJ'd a bit), then returning to Sweden, Lekman returned in the fall of 2011 with the EP An Argument with Myself. The record comprised five songs recorded for his next album but deemed not quite in line with the theme of failed romance. That album, I Know What Love Isn't, was recorded between 2009 and 2012 in Sweden and Brooklyn, and came out on Secretly Canadian in August of 2012.
During the tour that followed, Lekman realized that many of his fans didn't quite follow him to the relatively dark and introspective places that the album went. This sent him into a bit of an artistic tailspin, leading to a 2014 album being made but eventually shelved after being turned down by his label. Still struggling to find a way to get back to a place of artistic stability, Lekman issued a mixtape in 2014 titled WWJD, which featured a few new songs. He took more drastic measures in 2015 when he launched Postcards, a project that called for him to write, record, and release a song every week for a year. At the same time he launched Ghostwriting, which had Lekman writing songs from stories given to him by fans. He did it in Gothenberg and Cincinnati, meeting with the fans, interviewing them, and then quickly recording the songs. Feeling rejuvenated, Lekman next teamed with producer Ewan Pearson, whom he met while recording with Tracey Thorn, and began work on a new album. The shiny, happy, disco-inspired Life Will See You Now was released in early 2017. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi