JENS LEKMAN — “Life Will See You Now”
THE GOOD: Swedish indie pop singer/songwriter Jens Lekman returns with a bold, colorful fourth full-length album.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Lekman diligently polished his songwriting craft over the past two years. After scrapping a potential follow-up to 2012’s “I Know What Love Isn’t,” the man embarked on the “Postcards” project that found him writing and releasing a new song each week for an entire year. In the end, that’s a LOT of practice, and that practice has paid off.
The new record is a luminous, layered pop triumph, boasting 10 tracks that find the man expanding his musical palette and embracing folk-pop, twee, disco and bossa-nova. This also is the first time Lekman worked with an outside producer, collaborating with Ewan Pearson (The Rapture, Ladytron). Again, fresh ears mean fresh sounds that encompass everything from Kings of Convenience to vintage Everything But the Girl. Tracey Thorn even shows up for a cameo on the charming “Hotwire the Ferris Wheel.”
BUY IT?: Yes.
TENNIS — “Yours Conditionally”
THE GOOD: Colorado indie rock duo Tennis (husband-and-wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore) come back with a breezy fourth.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The pair’s sparkling debut, 2010’s “Cape Dory,” was inspired by an extended sailing trip the two took after graduating from college. For “Yours Conditionally,” the couple got back on the boat for some sunny rejuvenation.
It must have worked. The new record is another divine collection of classic pop melodies combined with Moore’s slightly sardonic lyrical observations. You have to love the over the-top character plowing through “My Emotions Are Blinding” or the sarcasm permeating “Ladies Don’t Play Guitar.”
Musically, there’s a certain timelessness to these songs. One could accuse Tennis of being stuck in the land of “Pet Sounds” or “Odessey and Oracle,” yet the duo’s tunes retain an amazing freshness grounded in our current culture. Moore’s strong feminine vocals always lead us through tracks both precious and elegant. So even when some lyrics don’t “play nice,” the entire set remains graceful.
BUY IT?: Definitely.
GRANDADDY — “Last Place”
THE GOOD: Late ’90s/early 2000s indie rockers Grandaddy reform for album five.
THE BAD: Sequencing is a slight issue. “Last Place” is comprised of two distinct halves — the sunny, poppy beginning and the somber conclusion. MOST of the record’s best moments occur during the first half.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Considering what he was going through at the time of the recording process though, it’s amazing that songwriter/vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Jason Lytle churned out ANYTHING decidedly cheerful. After moving to Portland, Oregon, from rural Montana in order to save his marriage, the guy ended up getting divorced anyway.
But even the creeping depression and mundane days of middle age can bring about excellent pop tunes. Tracks like “Way We Won’t” and “Brush with the Wild” are further shimmering examples of the infectious stuff that held us captivated 15 years ago. And when the man slows down matters to a crawl, tunes such as the gorgeous “That’s What You Get for Gettin’ Outta Bed” keep us glued to lilting bits of melancholy.
BUY IT?: Sure.