Marco Benevento has a gift for writing instantly gratifying melodies, and his latest album has the kind of visceral quality that teenagers in the ‘80s and ‘90s will associate with John Hughes’ best films. It also achieves an artistic goal that’s much more adult. Building songs from a place of patience and structure, Benevento heightens both the cerebral and emotional experience of music by working his way into the precise point at which those things intersect.
His previous albums at times seemed so focused on exploring the possibilities of his arsenal (usually an effects-tweaked baby grand piano, a slew of circuit bent toys, and various retro members of the organ family) that they favored jagged sounds and repetitive grooves. Here, he seems to distill every positive aspect of past recordings. The result? Edgily atmospheric anthems for what might as well be an army of determined, if broken, toy soldiers.
The first three tracks establish Benevento’s familiar voice: repeated chord sequences building in meaning as they’re teased out by fuzzy effects and squiggles or held down by the highly competent lineup of Reed Mathis and Andrew Barr. With “Numbers,” things unravel a bit as Benevento takes more risks with growling effects, honks and his mostly-unfiltered acoustic piano — which the album could admittedly use more of.
Whether brooding with nostalgia (“Between the Needles”), rock-driven and replete with climax (“It Came From You”) or somewhat sexily off-kilter (Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good”), the measured patience within each thickly textured layer of each song speaks to a newly minted level of artistic maturity.
Between the Needles and Nightfall: Greenpoint; Between the Needles; Two of You; Numbers; It Came From You; Ila Frost; RISD; You Know I’m No Good; Music Is Still Secret; Wolf Trap; Snow Lake.
Personnel: Marco Benevento, piano, optigan, circuit bent tpys and various keyboards; Reed Mathis, electric bass; Andrew Barr, drums, percussion and electronic drums.
Ordering info: RoyalPotatoFamily.com