Singer-songwriter Alec Benjamin reportedly made his name in 2019 with a mixtape, which was streamed 540m times worldwide. This is his debut album.
Our first observation would be that Benjamin has an androgynous voice. The first few plays we assumed he was a girl named Alec; when we Googled him, we seriously considered that we’d saved an album under the wrong name. He’s not a falsetto but he’s certainly in touch with his feminine side; gentle is perhaps the word. Wikipedia reports he is influenced by Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, whose own side project The Postal Service was similarly gentle. Benjamin is less indie and far more pop / RnB, although he won’t be doing screamo any day soon.
The second observation is that this album is too short, and just flies past. It’s mellow and very easy on the ear; no real killer songs but a pleasant whole. It could easily have turned to vapid mush, and this might be a danger for any future albums, but this one is good.
The relaxed lounge music / RnB seems to mask some pretty decent lyrics, too.
Opener Mind Is A Prison is about being stuck in your own head, perhaps that feeling of living a life you feel is not yours. “I don’t live in California, I’ll inform you, that’s not where I reside / I’m just a tenant, paying rent inside this body”.
Demons is self-obvious, “I’ve got all these demons hiding underneath / Nobody can see them, nobody but me” he sings – in the least demonic voice the world has ever heard – and only his friend, to whom the song is addressed “keeps me from diving off the deep end.” Many a person will be able to relate to that.
Early in his career Benjamin was dropped by a major label, a topic addressed in the track Jesus in LA (as in, he’s not to be found in that fair city). “When they sold you the dream, you were just sixteen / Packed a bag and ran away / And it’s a crying shame you came all this way” he sings.
It’s all personal but closer Just Like You is the most directly personal, about his dad, “When I was younger, I would argue with my dad / Tell him that I hated him when I was talking back”, wisdom coming with age. “I remember when my father lost his job / He held our home together for the family, he was strong”.