Jens Lekman

When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog

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Jens Lekman is a lovable goofball. Coming on like a mix of Beck, Calvin Johnson, Stephin Merritt, and Morrissey (with all the blend of humor and emotion that list entails), Lekman seems destined for indie sainthood. In fact, in his native Sweden he is a bona fide pop star. When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog reached the Top Ten of the album charts in mid-2004. The three EPs on Secretly Canadian leading up to this record have been solid songcraft mixed with pop wackiness. Expect more of the same here, only better. He must have been saving his best songs for the album, because there isn't a dog in the bunch. Kicking off with the warped "Tram #7 to Heaven," which begins with the deathless lyrical couplet "Did you take Tram #7 to heaven/Did you eat your banana from 7-11," delivered in Lekman's best deadpan Jonathan Richman voice, the album is a wild ride punctuated by clever samples, drop-dead gorgeous melodies, tender feelings, and silly jokes. The best songs are filled with moments that leave you startled by the level of invention, enthusiasm, and starry-eyed wonder: the careening steel drum samples of "Happy Birthday, Dear Friend Lisa," the bubbling "You Are the Light," which is a thrilling mix of Dexys Midnight Runners, Saturday Looks Good to Me, and the best baroque pop/soul of the '60s (think the Left Banke mixed with the Rascals), the fluttering violins of the fragile and queasily intimate "A Higher Power," and the tilt-a-whirl harp samples of the aforementioned "Tram #7." The low-key ballads can be affecting too, especially "If You Ever Need a Stranger" (taken from the Rocky Dennis EP), on which Lekman offers his services as a wedding singer and desperate lover ("I would cut off my right arm to be someone's lover"), the folky "Julie," and the sweetly strange "When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog," a song that has Lekman's most intimate and honest vocal on the record. Lekman knows how to craft songs that stick in your mind. Almost every song here is the kind you find yourself humming at odd moments. "When I Said I Wanted to Be Your Dog" won't even come within sniffing distance of the U.S. charts, but don't let that stop you from discovering one of the goofiest, most artlessly charming talents to arrive since Beck.

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