benj – That’s A Wonderful Idea

 benj – That’s A Wonderful Idea

benj – That’s A Wonderful Idea – EP Review

Bring on the sub-genres!  Call this Digicore…call it Hyper-Pop…call it Alternative…call it straight-up Indie, Lofi, Emo, or whatever ya like as far as I’m concerned – just give That’s A Wonderful Idea a listen or two – dude’s like benj deserve the support for their immense creativity if you ask me.  Think of it this way – if music’s some kind of linear point-A to point-B type of dealio…and there are methods & means that basically equate to some kind of rules or a formula to work within in order to make a song – benj is proudly bending & blurring that line as hard as he possibly can, all in a sincere effort to create something NEW that your ears haven’t heard before.  At best, you might feel like you’ll hear flashes of another band or artist you could momentarily compare benj to – like for instance, I think this dude’s got at least a bit in common with Styrofoam personally – but any comparisons we might make, are over with by the time our brains can recall the name we’ve been searching for, and benj is already onto the next twisted part of the idea he’s working on inside any given tune.  And THAT dear readers, dear friends…well – That’s A Wonderful Idea…chances are, it’s several actually, but you get the point – benj has already found the bizarre methods & means that work for him…and he already knows the way to stand out from the rest is to be DIFFERENT.  Maybe something like this catches on overnight – maybe it doesn’t – and maybe, just maybe, none of that matters anyway – the internet eventually corrects itself, and listeners out there will find this treasure trove of audible madness one day, and they’ll be loyal fans for a lifetime.

As far as I can tell, “Saturday’s Home” was the lead-single released in advance, back at the end of June this year before That’s A Wonderful Idea came out officially earlier in August.  In many ways…albeit fairly sad & forlorn ones…”Saturday’s Home” could be interpreted as a love-song of sorts – just not the typical ones you’d heard on the radio a million times on the drive between home & work & back again.  Lemme tell ya folks – I’d take creativity and uniqueness like benj has got workin’ for him over any of that typical bullshit any day of the week and twice on Sundays.  “Saturday’s Home” essentially proves he’s got ALL the chops required to have played this moment in a straightforward way – and the courage & cojones it takes to blaze his own trail instead, if only to see where it leads him.  You’ll get it when you have a listen for yourselves though – you’ll hear hooks that are melodic and absolutely tangible…you’ll hear that, at its core, “Saturday’s Home” DOES have a structure, a framework, and a valid set of endearing ideas too – and you’ll hear how our hero benj here, has no problem whatsoever experimenting with all of that, and testing out the limits of what he can accomplish with his use of effects and the cleverness of production.  If you’ve listened to things like Sparklehorse, or Styrofoam, or like…hell…some kind of combo like Venetian Snares-meets-Death Cab For Cutie to a a lesser degree…you’ll be somewhat prepared for the multiple twists & turns that benj creates within a song like “Saturday’s Home.”  To me, it’s nothing short of genius – to most others, it’s probably full-on madness – and somewhere in between those two extremes, likely lies the real story we can agree upon.  What I think I can claim for a certainty, is that “Saturday’s Home” is pretty much guaranteed to catch just about everyone’s attention…that there IS melody & hooks that the majority of people can latch onto…and that the uniqueness on display immediately stands out.  Again, for me, it stands out for all the right reasons – this is like a love-song, yes – but it’s like the fractured, broken, twisted ART FORM of that.

“Twinkle” is interesting too.  Very much LESS accessible than “Saturday’s Home” is – I’d say there’s a chance that benj pushes the envelope just a bit too far on this one for most people to connect with it.  Objectively speaking, he doesn’t hit the most accessible hooks of “Twinkle” until you reach the two-minute mark…and once you get to’em, that’s all you’re gonna get.  Again – personally, I like all the surrounding details that you’ll find in the mix and production – I’d be crazy to assume that everyone will feel the same as me, but hey, I went for about a decade answering the question of ‘what do you listen to?’ with an answer of ‘whatever sounds like a broken answering machine.’  So keep that in mind – crazy appeals to me, a LOT.  “Twinkle” was released back at the end of July, with the written advice along with it that says “don’t take it too serious boo” – and that’s probably pretty sage wisdom.  Even I feel like I end up remembering some of the best advice I was ever given when it came to swear words & stuff – which was that using them is fine…no one really gives a fuck one way or the other anyway – but using them with PURPOSE is that much better.  And I ain’t gonna lie to ya, “Twinkle” felt like it was missing that tangible reason to have the verses come out the way they do.  First off, it takes like, what – about a minute-plus to get to the heart of the idea in this song to begin with, and another minute to reach the main hooks…and in another ninety seconds, this whole show is over.  “Saturday’s Home” felt crazy, yes – but it felt like purposeful madness…”Twinkle” kind of feels a bit like it’s wandering around a lot more before you reach those main hooks.  The best thing I can say about it, is that I think every one of us listening will want MORE of the hooks we hear once we get to’em…and even the main melody in the music works brilliantly too…it’s the verses that are really searching for an idea that’ll satisfy.  I’m not so convinced that benj ends up accomplishing that level of satisfaction for us…”Twinkle” is a lot more uneven in that structural sense I suppose…but fuck…I’m known to take this whole music thing WAY TOO SERIOUSLY anyhow.  I’ll take what I love about it and shut the hell up…I don’t want to discourage the creativity in this dude when it’s crystal clear to me that benj could take over the whole planet one day.  For real though bro…don’t shy away from exploiting hooks you know truly work…it’s only gonna draw people towards the music even more – the mid-section of “Twinkle” to the end, is the pathway forward.

I love tracks like “Her” – because for real…this COULD all be so simple, am I right?  benj doesn’t NEED to create such a fired-up level of bizarreness – he COULD have played this completely straight-ahead.  And WHERE oh WHERE would the FUN have been in THAT?  I completely dig the fact this guy is somehow able to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that he understands melody, knows his way around a hook, gets how to write a song without question – and then is unafraid to put that all right into the blender, shake it right the fuck up, and let the chips fall where they may as the sound spills out of our speakers.  At 2:40, hellz YES I would have taken a LOT more of this cut…I might have been satisfied somewhere around the ten-minute mark.  Once again…do I expect YOU to feel the same as I do?  Probably NOT if I’m being honest with ya…but that’s okay!  It’s just a reflection on how you SUCK at listening to music and how sheltered the majority of you are when it comes to what you choose to listen to is all – no worries, it’s NORMAL.  But like…for real y’all…you’re telling me you hit that 1:45 mark and you somehow DON’T want a shit-ton more than what we get?  Really?  I want a sonic metric TON of whatever that magic is.  “Her” is all kinds of creatively badass from start to finish if you ask me.  It’s almost nutty to consider the fact that, the very first hooks you’ll hear in the music would have been GOOD GAME for most of us already, and benj tosses them aside like it AIN’T NO THANG.  And like…I mean…once you hear what the trade-off is for, you SHOULD be cool with it…because it’s equally awesome, even if it’s like, dialed-back into a subtle melody that’s practically the polar opposite of the bold sound that starts this song off at the very start…but yeah…unexpected, unpredictable, and ultimately, irresistible in more than a few ways.  The main hooks of this song are freakin’ pure audible GOLD and addictive AF…”Her” would be right up there with my favorites in this set of five, if not sitting right at the very top of the freakin’ heap.  There’s bounce, there’s spark, there’s energy, uniqueness, and INSPIRATION in this track that’s beyond awesome to experience all at once…and there’s also a really odd ambience threaded into the second minute of this song that consistently sounds like someone’s rolling down the gravel of my driveway.  I kept checking out the window on the first several spins until I realized benj put it in the music somehow.

Would I have CUT “Seagulls” from the EP?  Maybe.  I mean…that’s probably a BIT harsh – but much like “Twinkle” from earlier on, I didn’t feel like it was up to par in comparison to cuts like “Saturday’s Home” or “Her” – or the title-track to finish this EP off either.  Unlike “Twinkle” from earlier on, I felt like “Seagulls” was missing that key element of like…appeal?  There is no doubt in my mind that I have certainly heard worse on other records just about every single day of my LIFE…but I gotta hold artists to the standards they set for themselves yo – and our hero benj has already proven to be a force much stronger than what we hear on “Seagulls” is all I’m sayin.’  That heartbeat you hear within this song is to remind us that he’s still alive…because the rest of what we hear is pretty damn close to a FLATLINE y’all.  Obviously I’m kidding around a little bit – so I’ll throw his own advice back at him – “don’t take it too serious boo” – I’m just one dude on the internet…another asshole with an opinion…there are a million of me out there, and where one person like me will tell ya “Seagulls” doesn’t quite measure up, there are SO MANY MORE people that’ll just tell ya it’s great.  And the best thing about that benj?  YOU get to be the guy that decides who’s being real with ya and who’s not.  I just call things like I hear’em – even “Twinkle” had genuine flashes of something we could connect to…”Seagulls” seems to be too far dialed-back in its vibe for it to have enough for the people to latch onto…I suppose that’s what I’m saying.  It’s a savagely anti-typical tune in the sense that, I couldn’t identify what the hooks might even be…it’s a track that’s either ALL hook, or NO hooks…and I guess that’s all up to us as individuals to sort out in our heads as we listen.  I think benj needs to be objective here, and ask himself – what was it about this track that he felt like was able to compete with any of the rest in this set of five?  Was it enough?  Is it a song that HE likes, and that’s the criteria, and that’s all that matters – or is there something in it that’ll speak to the rest of us too?  Personally, I don’t think there’s a wrong answer to that question – but I do think that there’s no doubt about benj having shown us more creative depth in every other song on this EP, 100%.

Thankfully, there IS redemption before That’s A Wonderful Idea is over, and it comes in the form of its title-track right at the end for the finale.  You’ll even hear a weird twisted sample in the mix here that echoes the title of this record in the mix too, which I loved every time it showed up again & again.  This would probably be one of those tracks there I felt like benj got closest to something like Styrofoam in comparison…the tangible beat, the plentiful melody, the spark of inspiration, and the sheer WILL to be vulnerable, real, honest, and DIFFERENT at the same time…everything here is a massive win at the end of this EP.  He probably could have given himself a syllable or two less in the vocals to make it all a bit easier on him, but personally, I think he’s done an exceptional job of making the flow of the lyrics and his voice have that kind of stand-out uniqueness we’ll all notice.  “That’s A Wonderful Idea” continually innovates this ‘wonderful idea’ and finds exciting & engaging ways to make it even better than where it all begins…there’s a progressive evolution in this production, structure, melody, and sound overall that really hit the mark in my opinion.  Everything that benj creates is undeniably different…like I’ve been tellin’ ya the whole time – he’s gonna appeal to a niche side of the potential listeners out there, but that’s ALRIGHT…heck, I’d tell him directly that it’s a GREAT THING overall.  Folks like myself that get it, that hear what’s on this record and freakin’ LOVE IT (at least for the most part, sorry “Seagulls”) for the brilliant level of creativity on display and the cleverness of the melody & hooks you’ll find in addition to the unique skills & ideas benj brings to his music…we’re gonna be loyal listeners for LIFE.  Like – when “That’s A Wonderful Idea” ticks past the 3:15 mark, and this whole last track starts diggin’ into the DIRT – I can’t help but love it even more!  benj has been so relentlessly unafraid to flex his creativity in ways that most would never dare to…and ultimately, in the long run, it’s decisions like he’s making that pay off BIG TIME.  It might not happen overnight – but the audience that eventually rides with him, will be one that he sincerely earned…it takes time for true genius to catch on in music – stay the course bro…you’re blurring the lines, but you’re on solid ground.

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