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.