d.benedict – The Colors Of A Cloud – Album Review
I have the feeling d.benedict & I likely listen to a lot of the same bands. Dude’s doing his own thing for sure…but I’m catching a few things that would at the very least lead me to believe he’s gettin’ in a few doses of The National or R.E.M. on his playlists throughout the years. I mean…it all comes through in an Alt/Folk/Indie style that’s a lot like Band Of Horses indelible charm when it comes to how this album actually ends up sounding with its quaint & quirky, invitational songs. Lots of atmospheric vibes goin’ on throughout The Colors Of A Cloud…other comparisons to be made I’m sure as well, but upon first impressions of the opening couple tunes “Hearts Of Stone” and “Through The Window,” those three I mentioned were the first that came to mind. In any event…that’s always great company to be keeping.
I’ll say this much, I’d have been more than happy if the whole album ended up sounding just like the very beginning of the opening song, “Hearts Of Stone” – that’s about as inviting & dreamy as music can be right there. Absolutely fantastic vocals, both in the performance and production of them – and of course the trumpets, which are amazing, and will also become a huge staple inside of the d.benedict sound. The question becomes…when “Hearts Of Stone” bursts into its second-wind and switches-up the vibe…does it hold-up to the uniqueness of the way the song begins, or hold our interest just as much. I’d likely answer yes to that…I think the main bulk of “Hearts Of Stone” offers something completely different to the way this record opens up, but consider that the intro to the record perhaps – from just past the first-minute forward, you’ll get to the heart of what this initial cut has in store for ya. I mean…I’ll admit…it’d be seriously tough to pull off a full record of what the intro of “Hearts Of Stone” sounds like…but the potential I can hear within that first minute really displays something special here. I admire the friendliness in the sound you’ll hear in the subsequent part of “Hearts Of Stone” and I dig the addition of the twinkling piano keys & thickness of the bass-lines…the guitars stand out for supreme tones and the trumpets continually add depth to this song, taking it far from anything that could be described as any mere one thing or specific genre, embracing a multifaceted sound of d.benedict’s own.
There’s just a SLIGHT Post-Punk vibe that drifts into the demeanor of some of these songs as well, which I found was the case on “Through The Window.” And for the record, that’s a great thing in my books, and yet another crossover thread in the potential of the music of d.benedict. But listen to the trumpets specifically…listen to the structure, composition, and poetic lyricism…obviously we’re talking whole different instrumentation & sound-selection…but if you were to adapt that to what The Cure uses & plays with…more synths & bass etc., you could fit this song right into their catalog & no one would even question it. Those trumpets! I tell ya people, essential stuff. It really enhances the majestic & beautiful sounds you’ll hear in these songs…a lot of credit to the piano as well, which is always around to provide an exceptional melody underneath the surface in a lot of the material that lines The Colors Of A Cloud. He gets dreamy with it on “Through The Window,” musing on his thoughts as the music surrounding him provides a comforting warmth and uplifting sound that allows the vocals to float right into the mix.
“Too Many Planes” picks up the pace and gets the energy moving with increased tempo & brightness. d.benedict has a solid grip on the style & sound he was looking to create and have flow through the songs on The Colors Of A Cloud…the idea translates really well on the soaring vibes of “Too Many Planes.” The design of the vocal-flow and the uplifting feeling provided from the music to the microphone is excellent all-around here…”Too Many Planes” is the kind of cut you can hear people would respond to…single-worthy vibes, captured perfectly at its peak by the way that d.benedict sings his way into the chorus. Really solid mix on this cut…it’s FULL, don’t get me wrong…but you can also tell that’s what d.benedict was going for on “Too Many Planes” as well at its most involved. Still more than enough clarity goin’ on to be able to pick-out & appreciate what creates the magic in this cut – love the rumbling/jangly bass-lines, dig the drums and the energy they bring to this tune, and overall I think the vocals came out really well in d.benedict’s favor on “Too Many Planes,” it all comes together really well here. In my opinion…probably injects the record with the spark it needed right then too. If you dig on bands out there in the independent-scene right now like say, Aztec, School Friends, The Yellow Dress, or even Yellow Paper Planes for that matter…I think you’d definitely dig what you’ll find in d.benedict’s music as well…all different projects in their own respect, but all with a similarly amazing Indie energy you just want to turn UP. “Too Many Planes” is definitely a contender for top honors when it comes to how many people it could potentially reach…high degrees of accessibility & catchy hooks reign supreme.
I’m pretty sure the sound of “Double Swinging Doors” is how meaningful memories are made. Go ahead and Google that if you like, I’m sure it’ll be there…it’s gotta be a fact. He’s done an exceptional job on the Alt-sweetness you’ll find here on this song…and yeah, I feel like it’s one of those tunes that’ll spring up on ya at just the right time…like maybe you’re out walking one night and fireworks just happen to coincide with the way the music bursts open around the 2:40 mark…or just become the perfect soundtrack to a moment you’ll never forget. Excellent ideas in the late-stages of this tune…instrumental ones I mean; there have been plenty of amazing ideas on display throughout this whole song, but you’ll hear what I mean when you listen to “Double Swinging Doors” – it’s another d.benedict tune with a couple of lives combined into one incredible experience. Gorgeous guitars on the way into this tune, perfect simplified beat to go with it…I think “Double Swinging Doors” immediately captivates and continues to give you reasons to listen as the song plays on. It’s got a bit of that odd down-home sound to it in a way…similar to something you might have found on one of the quainter-tunes from a Golden Smog record back in the Alt-90’s heyday of off-shoot all-star projects. You could even argue that from 2:40 forward, “Double Swinging Doors” even reaches (highly successfully) into Post-Rock terrain for its inspired instrumental finale. Inventive & imaginative stuff all-around…awesomely expressive, even downright orchestral in a few spots; all these amazing attributes probably take it right out of the running for being a potential single…and if you’re like me, you’re always thankful for something like that. That means you’ve got something better than what radio could ever offer ya…the gold that exists on the net.
“No Angels” would definitely be another favorite of mine from this record…there’s something seriously awesome about the mix of humble innocence & Indie sound this dude can create. Like pieces of Modest Mouse & Band Of Horses fused together into the mix to give it just the right amount of unique creativity & Indie-spark of interest that’ll pull you in to listen. I don’t know that I’d necessarily expect everyone out there to feel as attached to this particular song as I am…there’s a sleepiness/lullaby aspect of this cut that could very well make it one of those tunes people reach for at a certain time to deliver a specific vibe to their speakers…but the two-part magic that d.benedict tends to dig on really lifts up the entire sound of “No Angels” as it transitions into its latter-half. I love the tones of the guitars on “No Angels” and how they soar through the air so brilliantly…love the warm vibes of the vocals from d.benedict in that second-half as well – I think that’s another real highlight from the man on this record and an inspired performance on the mic. Definitely a song that uses its loud/quiet shift to its advantage; you feel the definition between these two parts probably more than most of the cuts that incorporate this method…the latter-half of “No Angels” springs to life and sends colorful sounds pouring through your speakers. Vocal melodies are on-point, the guitars shift the direction into unique Alt-Pop territory that’s got incredible tone & texture…”No Angels” becomes a surprisingly lively song from where it started.
Overall, I really do dig the way the vocals come out on this record…always just slightly on the inside of the mix of the music, where you’ll still catch every word, but genuinely get the opportunity to appreciate both main elements of the vocals & instrumentation and what they bring to these songs of d.benedict. “Eyes Of The Sun” is another cut I’d probably be looking at as a potential single from this record – the catchiness of this track immediately starts to shine, and you’ve got all the signature elements of sound from d.benedict that have made him identifiable from the first seconds of this record on forward all there too…it’s a great representation of what he’s capable of. Highlight guitar solo for sure, I’m lovin’ that – short & sweet, but YUM – fresh & tasty right there, yessir. The trumpets are perfection, the rhythm section is in-line…the lyrics are great…guitars essential from beginning to end, piano too – I’m reasonably sure that the star of the show remains the star from the microphone here in terms of what people will remember or connect to most – but ultimately, there’s a cornucopia of great things to choose from. All of which, again, stack up to a solidly universal vibe that’s all-access…gotta dig that; the vocal melodies & hooks are probably some of the strongest you’ll find on this album without question.
I’d put “Cloud Dreams” right up there with the best of the best on The Colors Of A Cloud, no problemo. Obviously not as designed to be a typical single by any stretch, but the appealing sound you’ll find here makes this song an excellent candidate to thrive successfully on playlists for years to follow. I grew up on all kinds of Alt/Indie bands from Pavement on forward to Death Cab For Cutie & everything in between…what d.benedict is creating now definitely fits in with the art-school music crowd that fully embrace the path less traveled like many of those amazing projects out there from Sparklehorse to Built To Spill. You know what I mean; it’s different, but highly-accessible on so many levels. He’s put in some excellent performances with his vocals throughout this record, but it really felt like he got straight to the heart of the sweetness on this cut in a way that’ll powerfully resonate with the people for as subtle as it is. It’s a really well thought-out tune, right down to the final whispers…”Cloud Dreams” is a cut capable of taking you on that audio-journey you’re seeking out…you flow right into & along with this track without hesitation. “Cloud Dreams” might be one of the more subtle & slow songs on this album, but I’d be willing to be many people out there will find this tune to be just as captivating as I did…it’s the kind of song with its own aura and glow surrounding it…a feeling you want to stay within and never, ever leave. There’s a raw honesty & poetic design to songs like “Cloud Dreams” that rewards listeners looking for music that dives a little deeper…it’s really solid tune you can get a lot out of from the music to vocals.
A lot of the accessibility you’ll find in d.benedict’s music stems directly from the sincerity you’ll find and his ability to really tap into that Indie-essence…that ability to detail emotions & imagery in words in ways that others, simply just can’t. He’ll give you a solid example of what I’m saying right at the end of the record with a noteworthy performance of his song “On The Line.” No doubt that he’s working within a much more serious, melancholy, and somewhat desolate sound on this final track, but it also gives “On The Line” the opportunity to flex a different aspect of d.benedict’s sound while also supplying the album with a conclusion that absolutely hits home. Almost more in the Iron & Wine/Calexico space here…somewhere in between those two, or close to what they were like when they officially collaborated…you get that mix of sweetness & wisdom in a song like “On The Line.” In terms of songwriting & structure, d.benedict ends this album on more heartbreaking tones & themes perhaps, but there’s also a powerfully uplifting thread that runs through the surge into the chorus of this song that provides the perfect contrast as well. It actually becomes quite the epic tune for what you might expect…a lot of that is due to his decisions to keep the music as full as possible at all times…but as gentle as “On The Line” may appear, make no mistake, it’s quite an ambitious final song, no matter how slowly it might move or how unassuming it may appear to be. Really dig the backing-vocals in “On The Line” as well…another essential ingredient to this last track that helps it stand out strong and deliver the power & impact of the emotion the words & vibe truly called for. d.benedict writes a great tune – I think that much has been clear throughout the course of this record; he’s ended on a highlight that reveals even more depth through its noticeable shift in sound…it makes for an ending that hits home.
The Colors Of A Cloud is due out…sometime later this year…we’re still working on those final details. But soon! And hooray for that! Definitely enjoyed my multiple spins through this record – you will too. Keep your eyes on d.benedict’s page at Soundcloud for The Colors Of A Cloud to launch online here: https://soundcloud.com/dbenedictmusic
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