Jens Lekman—global vagabond, indie heartthrob, singer-songwriter, romantic Don Quixote, and international music star—is just about to release his fourth proper album, I Know What Love Isn’t, when I meet with him in Gothenburg, Sweden. It’s also his first release in almost five years. Between his debut in around 2003 and his last album, 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala, Lekman was reasonably prolific, releasing three albums and ten EPs. While some songs popped up on multiple releases, fans could count on some kind of new Jens Lekman single or EP or album popping up every few months. Then, suddenly, there was nothing.
“A lot of people thought I had writer’s block,” Lekman tells me, “but it was the opposite of that. There were just so many songs coming out. What I had probably was a finishing block—if there is such a thing. I felt like I was trying to do what I always did, which was just to make a loose collection of recordings and throw them together. But the album was trying to tell me that it wanted to be an album, and I wasn’t really paying attention to that.”
I’m having something of a hard time paying attention to Lekman myself. We’re sitting on a park bench, sipping coffee and munching doughnuts under a tree, while a roller coaster roars behind us and children run by screaming with errant candy wrappers and stumbling parents in their wake. I’m on a short vacation to Sweden, which I’ve given myself as a thirtieth birthday present, and I’m staying in Lekman’s hometown of Gothenburg on the country’s far western coast. As it happens, he was in town at the same time. He suggested we meet at Liseburg, a huge, leafy, and slightly rinky-dink amusement park that sits just on the edge of town—picture Disney’s Main Street, U.S.A. if it were Nordic, mixed with a few large modern roller coasters, arcades, and performance venues. “It’s the largest [amusement park] in Northern Europe,” Lekman tells me with a rather bemused tone.