Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording by Ian Harris, Video By Jake Lyle, Words by Landon Kuhlmann
For Benjamin Cartel, there's always a larger idea beyond the surface of the song. The ideas are transformed into a single symbol, like a teacup, or spread out over the course of each lyrical experiment—and the words in his songs are the most important part.
Benjamin is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from New York. After parting ways with his band, Benjamin returned to his roots as a solo artist. Though he's got a band with him here in this session, the core of each song radiates from Ben's vocal performance. He plays guitar and drums in this session, and I think if he had more arms he'd been playing all the instruments at the same time.
Parts of this session really reminded me of Wilco. I heard them not only in the folk-rock structure of the songs and the Nels Cline-like riffing on the lead guitar, but also in Benjamin's ability to treat sad topics with sympathy and optimism. That wry treatment, which borders on the blissful, screams Jeff Tweedy all over. When the group switched from the folk-rock setup to the full-on garage rock sound, it recalled to me my favorite songs by Mason Jennings, another prolific and influential songwriter, who moves between quiet, acoustic whispers and rollicking rock ballads. But all these influences don't mean that Cartel doesn't have his own way of doing things—he does, and he tells his stories with skill, passion, and a lexicon unique to his music.
Benjamin Cartel Official Site