Benjy Davis Project mixes happy with dark in new album

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    The Benjy Davis Project, with its sparse production and straightforward songwriting, has a no-frills approach to music. With their fourth album, “Dust,” the band has successfully stripped down the songs of any pretentiousness in favor of honesty, both lyrically and musically.

    A running theme of mortality and death hangs over the album not as a black cloud, but almost as a kind of friendly reminder to live life to the fullest.

    Vocalist and guitarist Benjy Davis’ soulful voice adds to the sense of urgency even when it’s at its most fragile on the verge of cracking.

    The lo-fi production reminds me of singer/songwriter Elliott Smith at times. When it’s only vocals and guitar, the songs are actually at their strongest. With the occasional introduction of a violin here or a horn section there, sometimes it sounds as if it were straight out of a funeral march, but maybe the band is showing the influences of its hometown of Baton Rouge, La.

    That isn’t to say that the album doesn’t have its share of bright spots.

    A bouncy piano line permeates “I Love You,” one of the poppier songs. With a peppy chorus like “I love you deeper than I can swim, feel my lungs caving in, nobody’s saving me now,” even the most sunny-sounding song has a little darkness behind it.

    In terms of individual songs, some highlights include the haunting “Graves” alongside “Clowns,” a poisoned-pen letter to some of the false promises of the recording industry. Now seven years old as a band and four albums in, the Benjy Davis Project is sure to have seen its share of ups and downs, but “Dust” should go down in the books as a peak and not a valley.