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Jens Lekman Adds Through Subtraction in Bittersweet ‘I Know What Love Isn’t’ Video

Jens Lekman is looking for love using the process of elimination. Director Marcus Söderlund, whose style in videos for Lekman and other Swedish popsters has always relied on a lack of special effects, pares back even further in his winning new clip for the title track from the Gothenburg singer-songwriter-producer’s new album, I Know What Love Isn’t (due out on September 4 via Secretly Canadian, and one day earlier in the U.K. and EU via Service).

The first video from the album, for the richly melancholic “Erica America,” was minimal enough already, a single-take glimpse at Lekman and his band performing in front of a freight elevator. For “I Know What Love Isn’t,” Lekman and his accompanists only have a stark white backdrop, and Lekman doesn’t even get around to lip-synching all of the lyrics (he does, however, find time for a charming twirl during the flute solo). At the video’s end, it’s only Lekman, alone with his instruments before the void, repeating the mantra, “I know what love isn’t.” He hasn’t found what he’s searching for, but at least he knows where not to search.

That’s the gist of the song, as well. After the intoxicating gloom of “Erica America,” Lekman’s latest track moves closer to the jaunty bounce of his best-known songs from last year’s An Argument With Myself EP, 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedela, or his two previous collections. And yet the process of elimination is in effect here, too, cutting away the samples and string section, establishing a more intimate, live-feeling warmth despite a recording process marked by global collaborations. Lekman draws a chuckle when he suggests a sham marriage so he can get citizenship (“I’ve always liked the idea of it / A relationship that doesn’t lie about its intentions and shit,” he poetically explains).

The real-life Lekman left Australia in the end, of course. He’ll be touring North America with Taken By Trees starting October 1. But replay the video, and he’s right there with his female friend, flirtatiously rating girls who pass by on the street — “and to my right, a perfect 10.” It’s always the last place you look, isn’t it?