"I think the other reviewers on here have done justice to this album. But I like this record so much, I felt compelled to pay it tribute. It is a phenomenal collection of heartfelt and delicately witty songs from Swedish singer/songwriter Jens Lekman--a compilation of his work over the last few years. He has said he doesn't intend to record another album ever again, which will pretty much make him the Arthur Rimbaud of chamber pop, so it's best to savour what there is of this somewhat demure, elusively charming song-poet.
As for the production of the album itself, well let's see...pretend you head off to London for a much-needed break and you go record shopping (your first planned activity, of course) at some used record shop, and you're rifling through crates of old vinyl and you stumble upon some 7" by the Left Banke that has literally been gathering dust since 1971, and you go to your friend's apartment in Notting Hill, and she has pink hair and makes her own jewelry and has a turntable naturally, and you play the thing and it just makes you ache with all its scratchy loveliness and you hold the thing to your chest and swear no one has heard any of this before you, and no one deserves to again. That's kinda close.
Lekman channels the almost-apologetic fragility of Nick Drake in his soft vocals and has clearly studied up on the Stephin Merritt catalogue and written copious notes on the Life and Times of Morrissey. His lyrics are wry and pained and whimsical, touched by shades of anguish and despair that are neither frustrating nor suffocating to the listener. But there's no band that he resembles more in sound and tuneful song structure than Belle & Sebastian (who even get sampled, briefly, on the fantastic "Black Cab")--it's the late-60's afterglow, the unassuming piano, acoustic guitar, and humming strings, and sense of drunken romance and abandon. In fact, there are samples and odd intrusions all through this record (ever heard of the Avalanches? and how bout the crowd of young fans sshhhing each other while cackling) that haven't added as much to an album in the weirdest ways since the Pixies went to the studio to do Surfer Rosa.
Indeed, Lekman is so accomplished as a songwriter that he even makes self-obsession attractive. I mean, you can't self-scoldingly put your own name in an album title and expect to be taken seriously, right? But Lekman's songs are simply too affecting, and he is too busy making hilarious from-out-of-nowhere song statements such as "I met her in the anti-war demonstration" (great song) and " I know why Mona Lisa smiled" or "I knew a girl who looked sort of a like a guy" to really get in his own way.
Even the likes of Morrissey and David Thomas Broughton are too mopey to write a song like "Black Cab", a luscious little interlude depicting, simply enough, the experience of being at a party with a bunch of friends that makes you feel lonelier than being alone, and the means by which to escape. "Sky Phenomenon", "Pocketful of Money" and BOTH versions of the magnificent "Maple Leaves" are some of the best indie twee tracks I have heard since Jeff Mangum first picked up his guitar to go even rockier and harder than Lekman could drum up in his ornate Faberge Egg worldview.
Lekman has good taste. He is talented, focussed, and simple. His songs are all melodic, magical, and deeply affecting. Some have criticized the middle part of the album which takes a sudden conceptual turn into a tribute session for Rocky Dennis, but I found those songs touching and off-kilter and I would have missed them had they been discarded.
Jens Lekman longs for a sweeter universe and for some love in his life. Some silly girl tells him it's all "make believe" but he thought she said "maple leaves". Oh, the tragic beauty of miscommunication, and the swooning loneliness of the poet. I'll take Lekman's cue, though, and be simple. This was the best CD I discovered in 2005.
But Lekman thought I said "to some this is as sharp as knives"--and in a way he'd be right."
Best Compilation Album of 2005
Devin DiMattia | North Carolina, USA | 01/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One of the most intimate and heartbreaking musicians out there right now is Swedish singer/songwriter Jens Lekman. Coming off as a witty cross between Beck, Nick Drake, and early Todd Rundgren, Lekman has a distinctive sound to his music, as well as a distinctive voice, showing that while he may not have mastered the English dialect, he has certainly mastered its vocabulary. "A man walks into a bar/orders a scotch and a bottle of coke/But the laughter has gone in his heart/You never told me the end of the joke," he laments on his new album Oh You're So Silent Jens, a compilation of EP tracks and rarities, but could as easily be confused for a full-length LP, as each song fits beautifully among the others. Lekman not only shows songwriting prowess, he also proves his worth behind the soundboard. All of Lekman's vocals have an eerie echo effect added, making it sound like the entire album was recorded in some long-abandoned high school auditorium. The lo-fi quality of the recordings lend to the intimacy of the songs, making the clean, seemingly effortless acoustic guitar appearing at the start of "Black Cab" quite jarring, but equally entertaining. Other songs stand out as well: the cut-and-paste bells of "Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song," making it sound like a Jem outtake; the dark humor of "F-Word," complete with a radio-friendly chorus; and the soothing "Maple Leaves," featuring every bell and whistle (literally) at Lekman's disposal. You'd be hard pressed to find a single bad song on this album. Oh You're So Silent Jens is a perfect introduction to this talented musician, and also succeeds on its own terms as an album that's scientifically designed to be enjoyed most anywhere: in a car, at home, at work, but most importantly, with someone you love."
Awesome compilation from young songwriter
somethingexcellent | Lincoln, NE United States | 02/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Oh why do you have to be silent now Jens? I often discover albums long after they've been released, and while I'm always glad to find something that tickles my ear, I recently read that Jens Lekman has stated he will be taking an indefinite break from creating music. Apparently, his recent tour (which spanned many months and several continents) completely burnt him out, and while I can certainly empathize, I'm a little bummed after hearing the promise shown on Oh You're So Silent Jens. A collection of singles and EPs released over the course of the past couple years, it's a mixed-bag of mostly excellent tracks that are full of musical and lyrical wit, blending everything from weepy ballads to sampled orchestral pop.
Of course, part of the enjoyment of the album is not knowing what's coming next, and even welcoming them once you've heard the album a couple times. After opening with a short piano and vocal piece that works nice as an intro, one of the standouts drops in "Maple Leaves" (of which there are two versions on the release). Mixing swooping string samples and rumbling drums, Lekman adds his great vocals (including a funny twist that defines the title). There are several tracks with musical twists as well, and "Pocketful Of Money" is only one of them. The first half of the track moves with finger snaps, a pretty piano melody and soaring vocals before things shift about halfway through and a striking sample of Calvin Johnson intoning 'I've been running with my heart on fire' loops and blends with Lekman into a delightful singalong.
On tracks like "Black Cab" (which mixes some nice guitar and harpsichord), a Magnetic Fields comparison isn't too far off base, and at times the dry wit and baritone of Lekman reminds one of Morrissey. Another batch of highlights on the disc come from his most recent Rocky Dennis EP, and like the best pieces offer up a sort of sample-tastic orchestral pop style. "Rocky Dennis' Farewell Song" takes filtered, stuttering piano notes and mixes them a choppy beat while Lekman croons over the top and "Jens Lekman's Farewell Song To Rocky Dennis" is a smile-inducing little piano-driven track that again highlight his subtle arrangements.
At times, the album gets a little too sappy for its own good, but it's never enough to derail things. "Sky Phenomenon" is another piano-driven track, but the stripped-down piece only highlight some of the more cringe-inducing lyrics on the release while "A Man Walks Into A Bar" strums along fairly nicely but doesn't really grab like some of the other pieces. Those are fairly minor quibbles, though, and the album more than redeems itself with songs like the rollicking "A Sweet Summer's Night On Hammer Hill" and playful "Julie." Please come back and make some more music, Jens.
(from almost cool music reviews)"
Maybe I am ... Maybe I am
Stephen Collins | Calgary, Alberta, Canada | 01/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How thankful am I that Jens Lekman broke free of Sweden's borders and entered my headphones on the North American continent. Transatlanticism is as cool as it sounds.
Rare is a disc that stays in my CD player for 3 solid days, accompanying any activity that allows music alongside it. Jens, you're so silent. Jens, I can't get you out of my head.
I happened to see the disc at a local non-chain music store, and the title intrigued me. Almost forgetting about it completely, I stumbled onto the Secretly Canadian web site and found the mp3 of "Black Cab." A beautifully crafted song - the sort that is appealing musically and lyrically at face value. I bought this disc without hearing anything else.
"Oh you're so silent Jens" is actually a compilation of three EPs: "Maple Leaves," "Rocky Dennis EP," and "You Are the Light" as well as some hard to find sounds floating around the "Dept. of Forgotten Songs" ... while this might sound like a hodge-podge of different sounds thrown roughly together, the outcome is nearly seamless.
The reverb is high in some songs, but not overdone. A lot of the effects used in this disc only accentuate the moods created in his incredibly rich songwriting. In fact, some of those effects approach humorous: I dare you to not smile during "A Sweet Summer's Night On Hammer Hill" and the over the top lyrics (and whistling) from "A Man Walks Into A Bar."
Don't take this as sappy Europop. Not every song is like "Someone to Share My Life With" - not saying this is a bad song, but 17 of these would be like trying to swallow a porcupine whole.
This disc is truly one of 2005's best. Beautiful. So much so, that I feel what I've just said is inadequate - you'll have to check the disc out and fumble over synonyms of the word beautiful."