Benji is releasing a new album September 15. Until then, he’s got a single titled "Phone Home" to sate your appetite. To really wet your whistle.
The harmonizing voices that introduce us to "Phone Home" are hands delicately setting a bear trap. You can hear a queasy anticipation in those voices and, while the specifics of what’s to come are impossible to predict, we know that something’s coming.
When the trap is sprung, the song’s second movement begins (brilliantly) a half-second early, pitching the listener forward into an emotional finale that conjures the synth-driven payoffs of Grandaddy (and the more self-serious codas of Brand New). This synthy sprint is ribbed by cave-echoey, muffled yells in a style that finds its noblest utterance in Teen Suicide’s “Beauty.”
The elements of the second half are simple, but that’s the premise of the best things under heaven—familiar ingredients blend to form a foggy cocktail that you can’t believe you didn’t think of. In doing so, “Phone Home” recasts your tastes in a new way, making you feel comfortingly known in an unexplored space. It's like plucking a book from a friend’s shelf to find your name written in the margin next to a passage that reminds her of you. In this sense, Benji resuscitates the spirit of Tim Buckley’s Starsailor (listen to the song “Jungle Fire” as a good example, maybe).
Benji has given us a quick hi-five song that succeeds in imbuing daily moments with significance (something he’s done before). He brings you into a brief two-second moment of life—whether or not it’s his life makes no difference. The song is vitality itself. It’s easy to draw comparisons between “Phone Home” and the opening track from Alien Lanes, a low-budget, low-fi masterwork made an hour west and 20 years away. The chant “the club is open” from “A Salty Salute” is replaced by “celebrate today," and I’m inclined to listen.
If you want more before the new album, White Hot Pathetic Rage, drops September 15, check out Benji’s EP released earlier this year.
ALSO, check out Ben’s playlist he wrote for Best Case, "Non-Epic Music."