Steve Benjamins - Sightlines
Folk, Rock Despite what many people think, indie music does not always mean interesting music. Case in point, indie folk sort of bore, Steve Benjamins. His second EP, Sightlines, doesn’t really re-define anything, except maybe the word “monotonous.” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Benjamins’ second effort; it’s perfectly acceptable. But if you’re looking for extraordinary in any way, you won’t find it here.
Toronto-based singer/songwriter Steve Benjamins’ first EP Disorientation Man released about a year ago and it showed promise. Songs like “Somehow, Someday Everything Becomes Something Else,” combined mellow indie rock folk, blues and some ambient electronica to make an interesting hybrid. A little hipster? Yes, but it was still pretty interesting stuff. Sightlines unfortunately is missing many of the bells and whistles of Benjamins’ first effort, and in the case of a very one-key voice like his, the bells and whistles are much needed and appreciated.
For all intents and purposes, it seems Benjamins wanted to go with a more stripped-down sound for Sightlines, maybe to get closer to a folk ideal or just to see if his sound works without heavy ornamentation. In tracks like the title track, it does not. Perfectly pleasant yet unremarkable is the phrase I would use to describe this song. “We Used to Live” is the second song and first single off the EP, and it does contain a healthy dose of electronic and other accompaniments, but it’s still a little lackluster. In this track Benjamins changes the register of his vocals a few times, so we seem to be rolling in the right direction.
Things improve even more on Sightlines with “Steamroller,” which sees Benjamins’ voice go up about an octave for most of the song. I rarely say this, but I think I prefer his voice in falsetto. The songwriting on “Steamroller” is also a nice return to form. An orchestral string arrangement, gentle pianos and jazz drums make this track sound like it belongs on Disorientation Man, but it too is a little less edgy than most of the stuff on that EP.
Sightlines’s fifth track, “Exploding Boy,” it’s a little weird and hard to characterize. It starts out back to boring, with Benjamins finding that comfortable monotonic register for his voice and not much but a piano accompanying him. Somewhere around 2:32, the track builds intensity and a resounding chorus of highly syncopated drums takes over. The vocals also become more intense but they change in neither key nor rhythm. Just as suddenly as this interlude appears, however, it dies down and the song closes the way it started: quietly and boringly. The closing track “Later On” is tiny in both size and appeal.
I’m not sure what to make of Sightlines on the whole. Steve Benjamins still has great technique; his voice is on-key and the bones of his previous work in Disorientation Man are largely there, but the interesting ornamentation on both vocals and music is not. Very little syncopated rhythms, not a whole lot of layering of styles and just, to be very cheesy, a lack of the spark that made Benjamins good in the last EP is what I mostly take away from Sightlines. I suppose if you want some nice, easy-listening indie pop this would be a good album to grab, but I say go for Disorientation Man instead.




3
Brutal Resonance

Steve Benjamins - Sightlines

5.0
"Mediocre"
Spotify
Released off label 2015
Despite what many people think, indie music does not always mean interesting music. Case in point, indie folk sort of bore, Steve Benjamins. His second EP, Sightlines, doesn’t really re-define anything, except maybe the word “monotonous.” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Benjamins’ second effort; it’s perfectly acceptable. But if you’re looking for extraordinary in any way, you won’t find it here.
Toronto-based singer/songwriter Steve Benjamins’ first EP Disorientation Man released about a year ago and it showed promise. Songs like “Somehow, Someday Everything Becomes Something Else,” combined mellow indie rock folk, blues and some ambient electronica to make an interesting hybrid. A little hipster? Yes, but it was still pretty interesting stuff. Sightlines unfortunately is missing many of the bells and whistles of Benjamins’ first effort, and in the case of a very one-key voice like his, the bells and whistles are much needed and appreciated.
For all intents and purposes, it seems Benjamins wanted to go with a more stripped-down sound for Sightlines, maybe to get closer to a folk ideal or just to see if his sound works without heavy ornamentation. In tracks like the title track, it does not. Perfectly pleasant yet unremarkable is the phrase I would use to describe this song. “We Used to Live” is the second song and first single off the EP, and it does contain a healthy dose of electronic and other accompaniments, but it’s still a little lackluster. In this track Benjamins changes the register of his vocals a few times, so we seem to be rolling in the right direction.
Things improve even more on Sightlines with “Steamroller,” which sees Benjamins’ voice go up about an octave for most of the song. I rarely say this, but I think I prefer his voice in falsetto. The songwriting on “Steamroller” is also a nice return to form. An orchestral string arrangement, gentle pianos and jazz drums make this track sound like it belongs on Disorientation Man, but it too is a little less edgy than most of the stuff on that EP.
Sightlines’s fifth track, “Exploding Boy,” it’s a little weird and hard to characterize. It starts out back to boring, with Benjamins finding that comfortable monotonic register for his voice and not much but a piano accompanying him. Somewhere around 2:32, the track builds intensity and a resounding chorus of highly syncopated drums takes over. The vocals also become more intense but they change in neither key nor rhythm. Just as suddenly as this interlude appears, however, it dies down and the song closes the way it started: quietly and boringly. The closing track “Later On” is tiny in both size and appeal.
I’m not sure what to make of Sightlines on the whole. Steve Benjamins still has great technique; his voice is on-key and the bones of his previous work in Disorientation Man are largely there, but the interesting ornamentation on both vocals and music is not. Very little syncopated rhythms, not a whole lot of layering of styles and just, to be very cheesy, a lack of the spark that made Benjamins good in the last EP is what I mostly take away from Sightlines. I suppose if you want some nice, easy-listening indie pop this would be a good album to grab, but I say go for Disorientation Man instead.




Jun 11 2015

Off label

Official release released by the artist themselves without the backing of a label.

Layla Marino

info@brutalresonance.com
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance

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