Music Reviews
Oh You're So Silent Jens

Jens Lekman Oh You're So Silent Jens

(Secretly Canadian) Rating - 4/10

Or perhaps you're not silent enough. Let's get one thing straight right away - Jens can't sing. Here he is, crooning like Stephen Merritt, and he is incapable of remaining in pitch for the duration of an entire song. Say what you want about Bob Dylan and his experiments with dancing around melodies, but at least he would land on the right note when he needed to. So if someone constantly singing out of tune gets under your skin then you will be advised to stay away.

Furthermore, if you are irked by attempts at humor which are not only pretentious, but not funny, or if you are irritated by cutesy imagery dripping with vapid sentiment, then turn your attention elsewhere. And if it bugs you if most of these awkward lyrics are crammed into places they don't fit, rendering the vocal performance clumsy and distracting, then consider yourself warned. Otherwise, this may be the album for you.

It certainly seems to be a favorite of critics at some prominent sites on the web. I'll resist casting aspersions at my colleagues by wondering aloud about the miserable high school experiences that might lead one to relate to this kind of music, because that just wouldn't be fair. Usually I find some general agreement coalescing around certain albums that I can buy into, and as a result I've been able to wisely tailor my purchases accordingly. But boy, was I schnookered by this one. I just couldn't disagree more with the heaps of praise raining down on this release. And no, it's not just a matter of taste or stylistic preferences. I happen to love the Magnetic Fields, who are clearly the reference point here. To answer your next question, no, I'm not unfairly comparing Jens with MF, I'm taking pains to evaluate him on his own terms. I just don't think those terms are very good.

To be fair, Lekman cranks out some listenable, even pretty, phrases once in a while. The piano figure on Sky Phenomenon is quite nice. And Julie is a Fields ripoff that actually works. The driving rhythm and sweeping strings of Maple Leaves aren't bad either, and At the Dept. of Forgotten Songs had me temporarily optimistic that the album might live up to the hype. But that's about it, and it's not nearly enough.

So like Flavor Flav said, don't believe the hype. Slogging through the whole disc for the few shining moments just isn't worth it. I recommend you download some samples and listen carefully before you open you wallet. The holidays are coming and my kid now has to get one less Star Wars action figure - and that's just not right.