One Jens and One Nils
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Nils Økland - "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". Nils Økland takes his Norwegian fiddle, his Hardanger, and unaccompanied he makes me forget The Beatles ever played the song. There's something in the timbre of the thing, the play of strings on strings, the wood-and-string dissonance. Strange that slow, stripped, tender, "Guitar" sounds lighter than the hackneyed classic rock version. Strange that these wild twists of notes feel less diffuse than the original, like there's something surer in Økland's winding phrases than there is in the solid chew of an electric guitar.

I played it for my flatmate. "Do you recognise the song?" I asked, a little smug, certain that he wouldn't. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," he answered immediately. I was astonished, I couldn't understand. I can't keep George and Nils side by side in my mind; I can't hear George in Nils. When I try to sing along, - awkwardly, plaintively, - I lose my balance. Like a man coming up out of the sea and wondering Is this what walking is like? This clumsy thing?

I wonder what this would sound like if I didn't know it was from Norway? Would it still sound of a wood? (With tree-trunks straight as slats, a clear-blue horizon between the parallel lines?) Would it still smell of salty sea?

If it was from New York would I hear streets, halal hotdog carts and rock & roll? Would those traintrack whispers, reel-to-reel murmurs, be the subway? If this were from Montreal would I hear rooms in an old house, and not the out-of-doors? If it were from Liverpool, what would I hear?

[Ripped from BBC Radio 1's One World broadcast of White Album covers. The recording seems to be unreleased, but Økland's got a few CDs - recommended by Wire, - so BUY: US/UK. (I will do so in Oslo.)]

Jens Lekman - "Maple Leaves [EP Version]". Yeah it's pretty with those rose-garden violins on repeat, but I thank god (I thank god and I grin) when the bass and proper drums kick in at 0:23. Suddenly this song's got a bit of boogie; you could maybe even take it to one of those twee club nights. And there on the dance-floor you'd dance with your shy friends, lean into a rosy face, kiss on cheek. You'd imagine the song's springtime swell was enough momentum to take you all the way through a love affair. (It's probably not.) But don't worry, chickadees; don't worry. Just enjoy the sweetness of this, the icing, the way Lekman's like Magnetic Fields but with pathos instead of arrogance, earnesty instead of cleverness. "And when she talked about the Fall / I thought she talked about Mark E Smith / I never understood [cue jingle-bells!] at all." The secret's in the jingle-bell cue. And the twirl.

I was late to the Jens-party. Last year I was sent When I Said I Wanted To Be Your Dog but I'm not even sure I ever made it through the whole thing. Too rich, too rich, and with such dog-dumb rhymes. So what happened? To be honest I think it's just that Oh You're So Silent Jens is oh so much better - such songs, such melodies, such lovely humble stories. My favourite comp of the year.

[buy / then go and convince Jens not to give up music]


Our end-of-year Best Album Haiku Contest is still on (til Monday, December 12) is now closed. Enter to be witty and maybe even win a Brian Michael Roff prize-pack.

Posted by Sean at December 8, 2005 3:03 AM

love those reviews today. while my guitar... made me feel simultaneously confused and celebratory.

Posted by Anonymous at December 8, 2005 6:55 AM

Thanks so much for posting this cover!
Nils' albums on Rune Grammofon are great. Recommended.

Posted by adam at December 8, 2005 9:43 AM

Have you heard the Pixies doing 'Wild Honey Pie'?

It's pretty fantastic. One of the most mental yet groovy things you will ever hear.

Nice one, Sean.

Posted by ross at December 8, 2005 10:07 AM

i'm glad i don't have to feel like a complete idiot for not hearing the original tune right away. it's fun that way though, kinda like a puzzle. good choice, i like the scandinavian theme.

Posted by quinn at December 8, 2005 9:40 PM

Gosh, if it wasn't for the "hackneyed classic rock version" Nils wouldn't have anything to play.

Posted by sitar friendly creeps at December 9, 2005 12:50 AM

Hi Sean: Will miss you at the Birthday party....but I still luv ya !!

Posted by Zaidie Ben at December 11, 2005 9:22 AM

maple leaves is my fav song on that comp too. i kind of like the non-ep version a bit better though...its less fuzzy. usually i like the fuzz. i dunno.

Posted by Andrew Iliadis at December 11, 2005 5:50 PM

thanks for there a rip of the whole of that One World broadcast?

Posted by jack at December 12, 2005 10:52 AM

I totally wouldn't have known what song that was a cover of!

Posted by Evangeline at December 12, 2005 3:32 PM

Yeah, already mailed Jens it was preposterous he considered quitting. but so did 10000000 people so we should be safe;)

as for while my guitar gently weeps, i just posted 2 days ago that ukulele version, it is right at the other end of the spectrum. but i love them both versions very very *very* much.

Posted by lilou at December 14, 2005 12:39 PM

I just bought the Jens Lekman based on this post and wanted to thank you: I'd originally written him off as too much saccharine pop badness, but am finding "oh you're so silent" to be quite outstanding. I think I might have to post this exact song on popsheep, though, because right now it seems to perfectly capture the world as it appears from my hearing impaired, self-absorbed,and perpetually confused perspective. Thanks again.

Posted by ian at December 18, 2005 10:00 PM

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Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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