So, You Love Jens Lekman.
Of course you do. The boyish Swede has established himself as one of the most irresistible pop songwriters around, making listeners swoon and smile. And you are rightfully psyched for his sold-out show tonight at the Black Cat. If it's anything like last October's show at the same venue, it should be a highlight of 2008. But you've devoured his entire catalogue and want more music. But with no new album imminent, here's a quick guide to five artists that should bring you the same kind of joy.
Richman's lasting legacy will be as frontman of proto-punks the Modern Lovers and author of unimpeachable rock-and-roll classic "Roadrunner." But for more than 30 years now he has been indulging his sweeter, goofier side to always-pleasing results. He's impossibly sincere, whether he's singing a lovesong or giving a history lesson about Walter Johnson, and his ability to juxtapose hilarious and heartfelt lyrics has clearly been studied by Lekman.
Album Pick: "Jonathan Sings!" (Warner Bros., 1983)
Richman doesn't have a defining solo album, so this one is the pick if only for its lead track, "That Summer Feeling," which is maybe - just maybe - the best song ever. "Somebody to Hold Me" and "Give Paris One More Chance" are other songs that, like Lekman's best, will leave you with a huge smile on your face.
The first time I heard Lekman I actually thought it was a joke side project by this Massachusetts native. Both singers share a perfect deadpan delivery, often-gutbusting lyrics and, at one point, a record label in Secretly Canadian. Of course, Jens is very real, but so is Lennon, and Lekman fans would be wise to familiarize themselves with him. Like Lekman, Lennon sings often-bizarre first-person tales with no shortage of punchlines or good hooks.
Album Pick: "Downtown" (Secretly Canadian/Martin Philip, 2002)
His debut, "Maniac," is hard to pass up but "Downtown" gets the nod mainly for its suite of hilarious songs about Dave Matthews. You simply haven't lived until you've heard "Really Dave Matthews." ("I first encountered Dave at school / Bootleg tape got passed around / I couldn't say I liked it but / It had a real distinctive sound")
"Gravedigger Blues," a song by the Olympia, Wash., DIY heroes, is sampled by Lekman on "Pocketful of Money." (That deep voice singing, "I'll be running with a heart on fire" is Beat Happening singer Calvin Johnson.) Johnson's burly baritone couldn't be more different than Lekman's soothing croon, but both acts share an affinity for whimsical tunes that ooze innocence.
Album Pick: "Music to Climb the Apple Tree By" (K, 2003)
An odds-and-ends collection might seem an odd place to start, but this CD gives a good overview of the band's career while also hitting on some of the band's best songs ("Angel Gone," "Foggy Eyes").
The Magnetic Fields are an obvious reference point for Lekman, but one of Stephin Merritt's many side projects should be noted as well. Merritt writes all the songs but leaves the vocal duties to friends like Dean Wareham, Lou Barlow, Marc Almond and Momus. It's highbrow stuff but still keeps its sense of humor and simple pop charms.
Album Pick: "Wasps' Nest" (London, 1995)
This album holds its own with anything in Merrit's lengthy discography, which is high praise. "Falling Out of Love (With You)" seems a clear influence on Lekman's "I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You," while "Pillow Fight" is sweet-yet-mischievous, a combination that Lekman knows well.
The French indie-pop group should appeal to people who particularly like the more upbeat numbers in Lekman's catalogue, like "Sipping on the Sweet Nectar" and "The Opposite of Hallelujah." They aren't so clever in the lyrics department but know how to use sampled sounds and live instrumentation to cook up some catchy tunes.
Album Pick: "Puzzle" (Minty Fresh, 2000)
The band's debut is bounc and breezy, and its centerpiece "Heartbeat" can go toe-to-toe with anything from Lekman's catalogue in terms of pure ear candy.
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