I mentioned Jens in passing last time around in relation to Car Seat Headrest’s “Fill in the Blank” and that led me back to a listen of “Night Falls Over Kortedala,” my (and everyone else’s) favorite Lekman album. I chose the song “Friday Night at the Drive-in Bingo” for my best of CD that year but on this listen it was this one that caught my ear.
Jens writes two kinds of songs, grand, swelling, sample-filled ballads about life, love, and loss or quirky situation-driven songs with a self-deprecating autobiographical slant. This is one of the latter: Jens meets up with a girl in Berlin named Nina on whom he seems to have romantic designs. They head for her father’s house for dinner. On the doorstep, Nina informs Jens she wants him to act out being a couple because she’s never been able to tell her father she’s gay.
Jens’s reaction is appropriately WTF and no small part disappointed (it’s unclear if he knew her sexual orientation before this moment), but it’s too late for him to back out so he gamely goes along.
Jens plays the situation mostly for laughs, relating how he must look to Nina for clues about how to answer her father’s overeager questions:
Keep a steady look at your left eyebrow
If it’s raised, that means yes
If it’s not, it means take a guess
…and how Nina’s father’s thrilled relief at finally seeing his daughter in a relationship with a man leads him to corny father-type jokes about lie detectors and (excrutiatingly) even to putting one of Jens’s records on for them all to listen to.
He’s just a sweet old man, Jens concludes, whose “Catholic heart” is too “big and slow” to acknowledge the truth of his daughter’s life (there’s a crucifix on the wall that especially haunts Jens as he acts out this charade). Jens is fine with leaving him ignorant and happy, though he does set up out-of-office replies to Nina’s father’s follow-up emails.
To Nina, on whom Jens is clearly still crushing, he says, “don’t let anyone stand in your way,” which presumably includes her father and Jens himself.
And since it’s Father’s Day weekend, we will leave it at that, as an illustration of imperfect family love and not worry over whether ignorance really is bliss or of what the fallout looks like when that bliss is shattered. I do honor the well-intentioned effort to protect each other from hard truths even if it is usually misguided and doesn’t usually work out. Sincerely, Chris Newsome.