Benji Hughes : A Love Extreme

<img src="" alt=" " />Benji Hughes delivers a belly full of material when he debuts with the double-disc <em>A Love Extreme</em>....
8.1 New West

 Benji Hughes delivers a belly full of material when he debuts with the double-disc A Love Extreme. The North Carolina singer/songwriter first made a name for himself after moving to Los Angeles, where he contributed to soundtracks for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Snow Angels, as well as penning the “Got a little Captain in ya?” jingle for Captain Morgan’s Rum.  But he takes it to the next level and beyond with his first full-length – a double-length, A Love Extreme.

Hughes did hint at his Extremes earlier this year with the six-song A Little Extreme EP (QRO review), which was sold at shows when he opened for friends Rilo Kiley (QRO album review).  The first disc of A Love Extreme draws more from Little, especially in the beginning, where three of the five first tracks come from the EP (and one of those that doesn’t, “I Am You, You Are Me, We Are One”, is a smooth, bright, barely-over-a-minute instrumental to open the record).  “Tight Tee Shirt” and “You Stood Me Up” are both strong disco-mixed with something else (a shuffle-twinkle on “Tee Shirt”, tongue-in-cheek grand on “Stood”), while the following new “Neighbor Down the Hall” slides in well, with its subdued vocals & beats growing into something bigger.  Little’s alt-country “Waiting For an Invitation” is a little misplaced between “Neighbor” and the barely-over-a-minute disco explosion “Cornfields”, but it does herald the wide range of sound that Hughes can bring, from party-time to sad times (reminiscent of singer/songwriter extraordinaire, Beck – QRO album review).  The disco-tech meets wry nature of the excellent “Why Do These Parties Always End the Same Way?” is Beck-ish (or even LCD Soundsystem-ish – QRO album review), but unfortunately the following “Where Do Lovers Go?” is the weakest track on the first disc, dark, but not really spooky, overdone with effects, and Hughes doesn’t have the right attitude.  Thankfully, it’s all done better on the smaller “Do You Think They Would Tell You?”.  The first disc ends like it began, with Little’s piano-man “All You Got To Do Is Fall In Love With Me” and the sub-minute hum “Mmmmmmm”.

While the first half of A Love Extreme tends towards the more electric-fun side of Hughes, the latter side starts deeper and sadder.  It opens with the downbeat, piano-based “Even If” and “Girl In the Tower”, but “Girl” especially is a little too boring.  Things really pick up with “Vibe So Hot”, as Hughes uses just the right amount of reverb & echo (making it akin to a ‘sad Beck song’), and the bigger, but still personal, “So Well”, the only Little song on the second disc.  And Love reaches its height in the middle of the second side with “The Mummy” and “I Went With Some Friends to See The Flaming Lips”; “Mummy” is a catchy indie-folk with perfectly tempoed lyrics, while “Flaming Lips” is just flat-out awesome (like going to see the band – QRO live review – but not actually ‘like’ The Lips), with great wry storytelling in an upbeat mode (some sort of cross between Ben Folds and cool).  The sad side of Hughes isn’t ignored, as in-between these two smiling numbers is the restrained, haunting, old-timey guitar-pluck “Love Is a Razor”, while later comes the slow & grand (& effective) “Jubalee” and even slower piano-man sad song “So Much Better” (though in between those two & “Flaming Lips” is the drums-beat instrumental “Coyotes” and synth-tech change-up “Ladies On Parade”).  Love ends with the wry, upbeat, reverbed piano of “Love On a Budget”, sub-minute high echo instrumental “Lyegue”, and a mix of restrained sad and big disco-grand on “Baby, It’s Your Life!” that does draw from the two sides of Hughes, but is a little jarring in its changes.

Even if it weren’t a double-disc debut, A Love Extreme wouldn’t be lacking in ambition, as Hughes stretches across styles, attitudes, and emotions.  With twenty-five tracks, there are bound to be a few missteps and skippable ones, but what’s surprising is how few of them there are.  Once again, Benji Hughes finds a way to surprise…

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