Jens Lekman
    Night Falls Over Kortedala
    Secretly Canadian
    {grate 4}

    Oh, Sweden — famous
    for the meatball, Volvos, ABBA — and now, Jens Lekman, youthful indie-pop
    comedian equipped with a rare sense of blatant self-deprecation coated in globally-informed twee. His new
    Night Falls Over Kortedala follows previous forays (one studio album, one
    compilation disc and a slew of EPs) with similar adventures in genre-mashing,
    pulling verbose mullings from the everyday and choice bits from his sizeable
    record collection. But unlike in the past, no lone single (like “Maple Leaves,”
    from 2005’s Oh You’re So Silent Jens) stands out so starkly as to eclipse the
    rest of the setlist, giving Kortedala a newfound albumwide coherence.

    Like the most
    diligent of hip-hop producers, Lekman will borrow a soul singer, lay him over a
    looped orchestra with a finger-snapping beat, and then tie all of the fragments
    together with a sunny self-made guitar lick. His lyrical shtick chugs along in
    a lightly accented monotone, rife with clever one-liners — “I flirted with a
    girl in sign language ’cause she was deaf” — that do occasionally shoot
    themselves in the foot with an overdose of sweetener. “So you pick up your
    asthma inhaler/ And put it against your lips/ Oh, those lips I’ve loved,” he
    reminisces on schmaltzy lounge-lizard “I’m Leaving You Because I Don’t Love
    You,” which features the whimpers (and direct influences) of fellow
    candy-coated Swede El Perro del Mar and embodies both of Kortedala’s two simple
    categories: childish declarations and wry, Morrissey-esque anecdotes.

    The album closes
    with “Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo,” a saccharine novelty that doesn’t
    take itself seriously, but might be too campy for those not in on the joke.
    Lekman obviously has a gift for collaged songwriting, but Kortedala — with too
    many rough gems, almost mundane in their aimless simplicity — ultimately ends
    up a showcase for his unreached potential.

    Jens Lekman performs
    live Nov. 10 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

    — Chris Kokiousis
    Contributing Writer

    The Fiery Furnaces
    Widow City
    Thrill Jockey
    {grate 3.5}

    Rivaled only by the
    Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne in her ability to send us to that synth-bubbling
    happy-place that dreams are made of, Eleanor Friedberger manages to do so,
    unlike the benevolent and nurturing Lips counselor, without so much as a glance
    in our direction. And as younger brother Matthew makes split-decision jumps and
    cuts all over their latest, Widow City, with introverted restlessness —
    toggling from warped ’70s sample to cacophonic guest drumroll to yard-sale
    organ — it seems that we’ve stumbled into someone else’s dream entirely, a
    bitter and self-distracted dream to which we do not hold an invitation.

    Curious, then, that
    instead of erupting into the glorious adventure its ingredients promise, City
    winds up as one of the Fiery Furnaces’ least surprising works to date. The pair
    generates an ample supply of same-blooded energy — a crackling heat eager to be
    released — but we can never quite feel it, and instead must watch it trapped
    within the album’s untapped bonds, always trampled prematurely by a
    forward-moving, impatient urge to change the subject.

    “If there’s anything
    I’ve had enough of, it’s today,” quivers Eleanor in her oft-imitated, sarcastic
    sing-song on “Navy Nurse,” Matthew constantly reconsidering the back-tempo,
    testing a fuzzy riff, a poppy keyboard jig, a Magical Mystery Tour acid trip —
    and his sister continuing to tussle with all the petty suburbia-stuffs (wall
    paint, nautical doormats) of a grumpy Sunday morning. Observing the Friedberger
    siblings’ newly domestic, privatized universe is a nostalgic smirkfest as usual
    — but good luck finding yourself a comfortable seat behind the peephole.

    The Fiery Furnaces
    perform live Oct. 21 at the Casbah in San Diego’s Little Italy.

    — Simone Wilson
    Hiatus Editor

    Rilo Kiley
    Under the Blacklight
    Warner Bros.
    {grate 2}

    If a simple country
    gal met the disco king for a one-night stand to forever whisk her from her
    indie coop, the pregnant fallout would certainly sound something like bastard
    love-child Under the Black Light, rife with danceable fun-jams and funky
    electric guitar — but capable of making or breaking a fan’s love for
    twee-darlings Rilo Kiley, now hardly recognizable in their streamlined, shiny
    suits. Hitting a few soul-chords but usually missing the mark completely, the
    four-piece sways between pop emphatic — with themes of heartbreak running amok
    — and simpering stupidity: “Money Maker” mouths off about the porn industry to
    a clubified funk beat (“Funny thing about money for sex/ You may get rich but
    you die by it”), but isn’t toxic enough to offend even the sternest Mormon.

    Kiley do best when
    jazzing down their watery country-western with weighty woes, as in “Silver
    Lining,” a beautiful piece of contempt that sees Lewis murder her own
    affection. “I never felt so wicked/ As when I willed our love to die,” Lewis
    croons, graceful in love’s betrayal of love but never without the fierce power
    that has earned her the title of indie-pop’s premier sex-kitten. Before the
    word “sellout” can fall from critics’ lips, they’ll likely find themselves
    tapping a toe to this happy-go-lucky sex romp, supposedly stemming from singer
    Jenny Lewis’ San Fernando valley origins — a locale entrenched in the porn
    industry. Songs like “Smoke Detector” and “15” are laced in sexual innuendo,
    lusty to the point of ridiculousness, exploring the word “smoke” as a euphemism
    for fucking and spilling out juicy details of a pedophilic Internet

    Lewis’ foray into
    Madonna’s world — all pretty dresses and cheap shocks — goes astray in its
    effluence of insincere bullshit, more easily available by way of the top 40.
    Kiley’s only saving grace is their barely visible indie background, reminding
    the band to add a little weird to the new fun-lite formula, but ultimately
    making no more impression on the world than a snowman in sunlight.

    Rilo Kiley perform
    live Oct. 12 at Soma in downtown San Diego.

    — Autumn Schuster

    Senior Staff Writer

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