Tag Archives: jens lekman

A World of Difference

Night Falls Over KortedalaLast night, I saw Jens Lekman perform at the Arts at the Armory complex in Somerville, just a 20 minute walk from my house. The last time I saw Lekman perform was in 2005, at a tiny club across town, PA’s Lounge. (It was also then that I interviewed him for a profile in Splendid E-Zine). In the interim, Lekman has gathered lots of acclaim for his honest, emotional, clever and at times charmingly awkward songwriting.

When I saw him in ’05 at PA’s, he was very fresh and young. He shyly clung to the microphone, eyes shut, crooning away. But at the Armory, I was stunned by how Lekman has matured as a performer in the past nearly seven years. At a sold-out venue packed with nearly 400 fans, Lekman commanded the stage with ease and comfort, dancing around, responding to the crowd and obviously enjoying the night.

It made me think about the act of creation. When you create something — a song, an essay, a painting, a website — you create a world. You can either invite people into it, or not.

Back in 2005, we got to observe the worlds of Lekman’s creation, and the audience derived some enjoyment from that. But we were not a part of them. Those worlds were his own. Last night, however, we were invited into them. We became an integral part of them.

After the show, my friend Chris remarked, “He was just completely engaged.” And that was it. Yes, the concept of engagement is one of the most overused in marketing. But now, after this concert, I feel like I have a better understanding of it than ever before. To engage someone is to invite them into the world of your creation, and to make it a shared experience. They become as much a part of it as you are, sharing in the honesty, the emotion, the cleverness and, yes, even the charming awkwardness.

Sometimes, your world needs to remain your own, and that’s okay. It could be something very personal, or you’re just trying to work something out or conduct an experiment.

But a world gains power when you bring people into it, because they make it better than you could have done on your own. They shape your creation, enhance it, amplify it.

It makes me think of one of the coolest phenomena I’ve learned about from the Occupy Wall Street movement — the people’s mic, where the crowd makes up for the lack of amplification by having an individual’s message shouted in echo by the people standing nearby. This not only enables everyone to hear the message, but actively involves the crowd in its communication.

It may have taken Lekman a few years to figure out how to let people into his world. But last night at the Armory, the power of his engagement was on full display. And his creations, his songs, buzzed with the life we fed into them.

Take Five – The Birthday Edition

What’s my favorite song this week? If I was corny, I’d say “Happy Birthday,” because that’s what tomorrow is. But actually, my favorite song this week is Dizzee Rascal’s “Fix Up, Look Sharp.”

Without further ado…

RIYL…

Sunday nights are the big night for local music on the radio. WFNX’s former New England Product show has relaunched as Boston Accents, airing 8-10PM, and WZLX’s Boston Emissions is still going strong from 10PM-12AM (which sadly falls in the “Mad Men” time slot).

As a former college and community radio DJ, I love keeping tabs on this stuff. That’s why I’m jazzed about the next Rock Shop, which features Boston Accents’ Dave Duncan, Boston Emissions’ Anngelle Wood, WAAF’s Carmelita of Bay State Rock and WMBR’s Tim Kelly of The Hidden Capital. The event is at 7PM on Aug. 23 at the Middle East.

NEW RELEASES

  • I arrived back at the office after a four-day weekend and was greeted by Christmas in my mailbox: The new Mike Viola/Kelly Jones EP and the new Cloud Cult album, “Light Chasers,” had arrived! The Viola/Jones effort is sublime, as per usual, and I am beyond pleased to have a recording of their haunting duet of Viola’s classic “A Way to Say Goodbye” (now the third version of the song in my possession). “Light Chasers” is no “Feel Good Ghosts,” but what could be? It’s still a powerful, unabashedly honest rock record.
  • One of my favorite bands, Girlyman, has finally released an album consisting solely of tuning songs — the spontaneous nuggets of genius they always come up with during their live shows, usually while someone is tuning a guitar. The live compilation is $15, which may be a bit steep, but consider part of the payment as going toward this awesome promotional video:
  • Jens Lekman has a new song out, “The End of the World is Bigger than Love.” It’s typically epic, heartbroken and charming. Lekman also releases a mixtape, “A Summer in 3/4 Time” [.mp3]. Some more background on Chromewaves.
  • After much urging and promotion from the likes of Brad and The DP, I snagged the new Versus album. And it is as fun and awesome as those Merge fanboys say it is :-)
  • Speaking of Merge, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the new Arcade Fire album. I’m not an Arcade Fire fangirl (true confession: “Neon Bible” is still in the shrinkwrap, though I listen to “Intervention” on iTunes a lot), but I snagged it from Amazon MP3 for $3.99 and was pleasantly surprised. Probably their most accessible (is that a dirty word?) record yet, and very well crafted.
  • I finally acquired the best of The Alarm. I recommend you did the same. They are much more than “The Stand.”
  • Josh Rouse has releases a new live EP, “El Turista en la Radio,” for free download.

AROUND THE WEB

IN THE NEWS

  • An awesome Facebook post by Hallelujah the Hills the other day: “Dear bands & musicians, do you have recordings of songs without any vocals on them? I’ll make up melody, lyrics, and record vocals on them if you send them to me. If I get enough tracks we’ll put out an album for free online. Send to band AT hallelujahthehills dot com.”
  • Fast Company provides some interesting data on “The State of Internet Music on YouTube, Pandora and Facebook.” Thoughts: 1) Fans/followers/friends are important, sure, but what are theydoing for the musicians they are fanning/following/friending? 2) I totally buy YouTube > Apple when it comes to music, because iTunes isn’t a social or a learning platform; it’s purely a purchasing platform. 3) I’ve never gotten into Pandora — I have other recommendation engines that are more human that work for me. I’m sure it’s great for some, but just not me.
  • Cassettes are back! Obvs. So glad I still have my 5 disc CD changer with dual cassette deck that I bought in 1999 — the thing is practically a hipster recording studio, nowadays.
  • Hello Music is a service that connects musicians with “real industry opportunities.” Not sure how useful it is, since most of the entries read “[Song] by [band] is now in rotation on the Unsigned & DIY station on Yahoo! Radio,” but in this Bandcamp era, it’s nice to see one more option for artists trying to make it on their own steam.
  • Rdio, the music streaming service by the creators of Skype, is out of invite-only mode and live to the world. For just $5 a month on your computer ($10 on your smartphone), you can have access to a streaming equivalent of your music collection.  Seems like a good option if you want to listen to your own music at work or on the go. However, I own an iPod and listen to KEXP, so, I have no need for Rdio (yet).
  • It’s no replacement for the mix CD (and it’s more expensive), but file this under nice-to-know: you can purchase and send an iTunes playlist to a friend, so long as all of the songs are available in the iTunes store.

SECOND THOUGHTS

The Boston Phoenix’s On the Download blog linked to this video from Lollapalooza of Lady Gaga crowdsurfing during some crappy band’s side stage set.

The video itself is pretty uninteresting, as such things go, but one thing caught my attention. Of everyone in the crowd who had their arms outstretched, the majority of them were clutching cellphones and cameras. It depressed me.

Of the crowd shots I’ve seen from stadium and festival concerts over the years — Woodstock ’94 and ’99, other Lollapaloozas, Glastonbury, you name it — what has always impressed me is the sea of people, arms raised in exultation, reaching out to grab the moment. No matter how far they are from the stage, they are always reaching up, reaching out, trying to hold on to ecstasy one note longer.

But here, at Lollapalooza, with Lady Gaga’s barely attired flesh passing just above their heads, so many of those hands clenched devices to record the moment, and so many eyes were trained on the LCD screens of those devices, making sure the moment was in frame, clicking the shutter or hitting record.

But there she is! Lady Gaga! The experience is happening right next to you, right above you. Reach out and touch it — it’s right there.

But your hands and eyes are removed from the experience. You’ll have amazing media later, but is that a memory? Is that sweat on your palm, or a bruise to the temple you’ll be bragging about for days? What are you really holding on to?