Benny Sings can, just about, sing. Perhaps Benny Writes, or Benny Chats, would be a slightly more appropriate stage name for the Dutch songwriter and producer. Full of steady grooves and infectious melodies, Benny’s new album ‘Music’ highlights his natural ability to craft pop melodies and transform them into breezy, catchy tracks.
By now, even if his vast discography of solo music remains indie-pop’s best kept secret, most indie fans would’ve heard the name Benny Sings. The Dutch producer has made a habit of collaborating with a circuit of talented musicians, ranging from Rex Orange County to The Free Nationals. He has always given off the impression that he enjoys working behind the scenes and playing the role of playmaker, as opposed to taking centre stage. Boasting impressive features from the likes of Mac DeMarco and Tom Misch, his new record doesn’t see him completely move away from the collaborative approach, but we do get to see him burst into the spotlight and show us why he is such a sought-after collaborator.
‘Music’ is a charming album from a charming artist. Straight from the off, the soulful chords in opener Nobody’s Fault feel like a cheeky reminder of Benny’s charm. The colourful production and bouncy instrumental compliment his happy-go-lucky vocal style, and it becomes a struggle for the listener to hide that infectious spring in their step. The repetitive chord progression eventually takes the backseat when Tom Misch’s guitar solo comes in, making it a worthy entrance as the first feature and the opening song of the record.
Despite Sings being a significant figure in modern music, the older musical influences are there to be heard in Benny’s work. There’s a particularly heavy 60s vibe in his latest release, with the timid vocal delivery casting thoughts back to Bee Gees, and the generic love-based lyrical content highlighting influence from artists like The Beatles and Steely Dan. This is heard perhaps most clearly on Sunny Afternoon, with spirited wordplay narrating the lustful side of life, until the string section comes in and pulls on our heartstrings even more.
There’s a lovely synergy that can be heard between the pair
The standout single of the album, Rolled Up, comes at the right time. The first three songs are all quite similar, so the different rhythm and song structure is welcome at this stage. To make it even more of a statement of intent, the instantly recognisable Mac DeMarco opens with ‘’Rolled up, tossed out’’, which according to Benny was a reference to a cigarette. There’s a lovely synergy that can be heard between the pair, with their differing vocal registers complimenting each other over a wholesome, relaxed instrumental. The back and forth between them is a nice change to the classic format of a featured artist occupying only a single verse or hook, and it creates this image of the pair just sitting in a studio, or even round a coffee table, chatting back and forth.
Benny is a natural songwriter. A guilty pleasure, albeit without the guilt. When first hearing lyrics such as ‘’I can be your sunshine, even in the dark’’ you might cringe, then cringe even harder, almost enjoying it this time. The minimalistic production throughout, consisting of simple song structures and drum patterns, may be boring to some, but there’s no doubt that it helps to extract a natural beauty out of melancholic subjects like solitude and loneliness, as heard in the more downbeat track Break Away.
Kids is probably the only notable disappointment on the album. It’s a gamble which doesn’t quite pay off, with a rather irritating hook which takes away from the wholesome nature of the project. This is quickly forgotten though, as penultimate track Miracles is an orchestral gem of a song, with lush violin strings flooding through. The gospel backing vocals restore the trademark Benny Sings charm and, in a project which was screaming out for a female vocal presence, Emily King layers a wonderful verse.
‘Music’ is exactly what it says on the tin. Whilst his stage name might be ironic, the album is appropriately named, as it reflects the simple easy-going nature throughout. Arriving just in time to make it onto summer playlists, Benny has provided us with 10 clean, light-hearted songs. No more, no less. Job done.
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