Perhaps because of its title and some of its song titles (“She Just Don’t Want to Be With You Anymore,” for example), I Know What Love Isn’t
is a perfect breakup album. It features some of Lekman’s bitterest and most sardonic lyrics, though still bearing the wit of his earlier material and a sound inspired by easy listening that, paired with its dark lyrics, becomes uneasy to the core. The aforementioned song is one of Lekman’s saddest, a simple breakup song that drops the shtick of earlier songs like “A Postcard to Nina” for dire directness — “There is no lover/She just don't want to be with you anymore.” It’s akin to Beck’s Sea Change
, another album by an artist known for cheekiness that made heartbreak universal in its honesty. Lekman goes through all the emotions across the album — the bitter sentiment of “In my next dream I want a pair of cowboy boots/The kind that walks the straightest and the most narrow routes/Anywhere but back to you,” for instance. But an artist as lively as Lekman can’t make an album solely of affecting heartache ballads. “The World Moves On” is a beautifully rendered dancey guitar-pop song that displays Lekman’s affinity for detail (“I just lay down on the floor with a bag of frozen peas/We saw plumes of smoke rising in the distance from our balcony/I poured a glass of wine”) while still being able to declare its true sentiment unironically: “You don't get over a broken heart/You just learn to carry it gracefully.” Poor guy. But with I Know What Love Isn’t
, Lekman sounds like he indeed has learned to move on gracefully, and he’s grown as an artist, too, skillfully combining truly felt, simple emotion and direct songsmithery with the snarky detail and musical flair his fans have loved over the years.