Benjamin Lazar Davis: Benjamin Lazar Davis

This is one of those perfect indie albums that you can listen to over and over and is a taste of summery sun in the depths of winter; indie in the modern sense of accomplished synth-based pop as a side-project, slick and well played, not the old indie of a DIY band bashing out a ramshackle but charming set.
Davis is a seriously good musician: he studied music at a conservatory and plays with veteran US rockers Okkervil River.

This album is sophisticated and gentle, in the same vein as bands like MGMT and their ilk (especially Passion Pit) a few years ago, melodic, subtle and a slight feel that being stoned might have formed part of the recording process.

Snow Angels opens with falsetto vocals, the notes picked out on a synth with string-like flourishes. It’s not a typical song with intro verse and chorus, its dreamy opening sequence linking to a more kick-drum driven section and it’s not until song two, Nebraska Valentine, that you get an actual beat. This aversion to a beat runs throughout the album, and not to its detriment. Nebraska Valentine is a song with a soaring sound; there’s a definite Russian feel to it and we wonder if he’s nicked a melody from a Russian composer. The piano melody could be straight from some modern moody Netflix drama.

At the heart of the record is I Bet You’re F—-g: we say at heart not only because we have to make sure the smaller reviewers are not within earshot and to play or skip, but also because it’s a surprisingly subtle song for such a title, Davis’ use of that last word as both a verb and adverb, the verb use being the one that would upset an ex-partner most, but the use of it as an intensifier is effective at expressing jealousy; yeah she’s doing that but she’s also having a really good time doing lots of other cool stuff and really happy. Most of the melody comes from his voice.

Medicine is another strong song, reminding us of Passion Pit (whose breakthrough Chunk of Change EP was allegedly written as a belated Valentine’s Day gift) while If You Want It opens with plucked strings that evoke the Isley Bros Summer Breeze. Eleanor, which follows, has the air of a folk tune, Davis singing falsetto over gentle acoustic guitar. Later on is Daffadowndilly, which sounds like it should be a folk tune but is one of the few songs with an actual snare drum.

Closer In Between Lives is a more stereotypical mainstream song (another gifted musician, Gotye, sprung to mind).

An excellent and fun album.

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