I figure Jens Lekman is about the only person who could get into an argument with Jens Lekman. The titular track on the pleasantly soft-spoken Swede's latest EP, An Argument With Myself, details a fractious internal dialogue to try to get on with life after a ruined relationship. It also features a clever arrangement of the bright, generous hooks we've come to expect from Lekman. Two guitars and a bass line flutter around a quasi-reggae beat before falling back to let Lekman's vocals take the spotlight. Everything resolves itself harmlessly enough, but there's another, more treacherous internal argument that went on before the release of this, his thirteenth EP in 11 years.
The genesis of An Argument With Myself is that of misfit songs—songs that did not align with either the style or flow he envisioned for his forthcoming LP. He didn't want to waste the five tracks, but the lesson to be learned here is that all too often there's a reason songs don't fall into line like you'd want.
Over and over, Lekman's greatest fault seems to be his unwillingness to impose himself on his songs. "A Promise" is too gracious with its limited hooks, while "New Directions" doesn't do enough to appropriately tie together the three disparate ideas that went into it. "Waiting For Kirsten" is an agreeably light pop story, but neither its hooks nor its lyrics are direct enough to sustain the track's runtime. In the same way, "So This Guy At My Office" is the perfect exit music, in that it politely fades out of consciousness.
But even at its most unfulfilling worst, An Argument With Myself serves good background music that doesn't betray Lekman's smooth, jumbled approach to songwriting. These are just the outcast songs with edges too elusive to polish. And while you're unlikely to fall completely in love with them, it's comforting to know that Lekman felt similarly.