Yep, we're counting down the top 50. Click here for overview and criteria.
Well, I must admit I made a mistake. It's not the first one I've made in this process, but underestimating albums on this list is a very reconcilable problem. I just bump them up and get to them later. Overestimating, on the other hand, leaves you no outs. We're all the way up to #17, so I can't just grab some replacement album that didn't make it. And it's not like this album deserves the boot, either. Let me explain what happened.
There are a few albums that merit placement on this list based on one song alone, though the rest of the album can't be garbage. Hence Hard-Fi doesn't get in on the strength of "Cash Machine." When I put my overall list together, I was very torn between Jens Lekman's second and third releases, knowing I loved them both for various reasons. Well I should have committed right at the beginning. Between their best tracks is one amazing record and then another one that would be so-so. Individually, I must admit that Oh You're So Silent Jens should be slightly lower on our list. But we're still talking Top 30 for sure. I'm being too hard on myself. Enough with the apologies, let's get to the praise.
When I saw Jens Lekman perform he mentioned that he has a problem telling stores. When he recounts sad tales, they come out funny, and when he tries to tell a humorous anectode, it comes out sad. I don't know on which side of this quandary the album opener, "At the Department of Forgotten Songs" is supposed to reside. It's clearly meant to be sad, but so calm it's comforting. Either way, it's not exactly a way to burst out of the gates on a record. But our patience will pay off.
Things proceed peacefully until we get to "Pocketful of Money." This is the song that brought Jens to my attention. I can't remember where or when or how it was that I came across it. The song seems overly simple at first, but then, out of nowhere a brilliantly placed sample of Beat Happening's Calvin Johnson crashes in, and the song has our complete attention. Suddenly you are moving to the beat and what seemed like a light pop tune reveals a bedrock of real soul. The song exemplifies how one arrives at Lekman's music on the whole. At first, there's no real reason to be interested. But quite quickly, Jens wins you over completely. Listening to his records, there's no way you can't like this guy. Seeing him live will only cement your attention.
Technically this isn't an album. It's a collection of songs that Lekman had available to make an album-length release. But you wouldn't really know it. The tracks flow into one another and seem to have been recorded in the same session. Some are better than others, but they work together to occupy a unique space in music today. There's nobody else in the Top 50 that I could compare to Lekman. His style is his own, or at least he does it much better than anybody else.
I mentioned that sometimes one fantastic song is enough to consecrate an album, and that's absolutely the case here. "Black Cab" is one of those songs. The lyrics are inherently dejected, but instead of being goofy or funny, Jens has turned his misery in to pure sweetness. Like an adorable puppy that just needs a good home, you can't help but take the tune with you. It is perhaps the most perfectly crafted pop song I know. Check the video below and tell me you don't adore it. I know I'll be keeping it with me for the rest of my life. You know what? This song is so damn good that Jens deserves #17. Besides, the rest of the record is really solid. I rescind all previous apologies. Give these a spin and tell me I'm right...
#18 - Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
#19 - Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
#20 - The Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!
#21 - Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
#22 - Mission of Burma - The Obliterati
#23 - Don Caballero - World Class Listening Problem
#24 - The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
#25 - Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon
#26 - Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak
#27 - Idlewild - 100 Broken Windows