Wednesday, August 12, 2009

White Lies for Dark Times

Ben Harper's music can provoke so much emotion in me, sometimes more than others of my favorite groups. There is just something so raw to his music--I am drawn to all of his albums with all of the different groups he expirements with. His newest album, White Lies for Dark Times, is his first album with the Relentless7, a musical group from Texas. So far, I'm really connecting with the album this summer.

What I like about Ben Harper is that he continues to change, musically, and expirement with different artists and groups. Harper has made albums with the Blind Boys of Alabama, Jack Johnson, Tom Freund, the Innocent Criminals, and the Relentless7. I like that he mixes it up with different groups; it keeps his sound fresh and it keeps him changing and growing as a musician. It's quite clever.

I feel like Ben Harper is a highly unrecognized musician. He has ten incredible albums that all have different sounds. They all contain different messages and have different themes that are strung throughout them. Harper varies between harder songs and slower songs, showing his capability and flexibility as a musician. Personally, I connect more with his faster-paced songs more than his slower songs, but the slower songs speak to me every once in a while. He really can capture melancholy well--just look at his slower side on Life from Mars, especially with "Another Lonely Day."

If you really want to challenge me on Harper's talent or want to hear it for yourself, I would listen to his live album, Live from Mars. I was BLOWN AWAY when I first heard it. It's a double-disc album where he plays with the Innocent Criminals. The first disc is a bit harder sounding where Harper plays his slide guitar. It sounds absolutely INCREDIBLE. The second album is an acoustic set with slower songs. For whatever mood you're in and whatever music you're into, one of those discs should appeal to you.

Back to White Lies for Dark Times. This album is definitely Ben Harper, but it does sound differently from his different albums. It's a little harder, which I like, and the emphasis isn't always on him and his slide guitar. A lot of the songs are highly driven by the drums, which sound incredible. There is also a back-up vocalist that works really well, especially on "Shimmer & Shine." I was very impressed when I heard this album, and now I'm hooked on it.

The two singles on the album are very good. One is faster; one is slower. The more popular of the two is the aforementioned track "Shimmer & Shine" which sounds like another staple song of Harper's--no surprises. It's everything a Ben Harper fan would expect.

The other single is a bit slower called "Fly One Time." I saw him perform this on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. I was surprised he picked to play this one since it's a little slower, but the song is heavily reliant on his vocals, which he impressed me with. He really has to sing and go from high to low notes, and it was the first time I ever really stopped and thought, "Man, this guy can sing." It has a catchy beat to it too. It's not too slow either; it's just not anything like some of his other faster songs. It takes it down a notch but doesn't put you to sleep.

Some of the songs have a really southern feel to them, like the opener "Number with No Name" or "Why Must You Always Dress in Black." This must be Harper's influence from his new band, but it mixes up the sounds on the album.

Other tracks are slower and have more emphasis on melody and lyrics. Such songs incldue "The Word Suicide" (where Harper announces that love is a lonely room), "Faithfully Remain," and "Skin Thin," which is a little too slow for me. "The Word Suicide" has some gorgeous lyrics. Check them out below:

The word suicide is irresponsible
Still you offered to buy me a gun
What's so hard about sympathy
Love is a lonely room
Love is a lonely room

When out on the edge
There's just two directions
And somebody has to lose
I should know better than to use words
Like never and hate
Love is a lonely room
Love is a lonely room

This is no way to live
And this is no way to die
Who in the hell's life is this
I'm living anyway
Love is a lonely room
Love is a lonely room

Other songs on the album are just catchy and funky. These are my favorite songs here because they're just so different and lively. They're not anything like other songs he makes, and they're hard to put into words. "Keep It Together (So I Can Fall Apart)" has such a cool introductory guitar riff that continues throughout the song. This one is one of my favorites for that reason. I can jam on this one. If you want a little faster-paced, "Boots Like These" follows, and it's got background drums and a hypnotizing guitar that will make you want to dance, and play the song a couple more times. "Tonight I'm going to lose my mind..."

Two other funky songs are "Lay There and Hate Me" which sounds like a disco-ish type song, and the other is "Up to You Now" which doesn't sound like a song Harper would normally record. It sounds like some other band's song, but I like it. It's a mix between mellow and upbeat. He sings with a lot of feeling in this one. They're both interesting tracks to say the least.

For Ben Harper fans, I don't need to sell this album. It sells itself. For others who aren't into Ben Harper, I would definitely recommend this album. If you're trying to get into Ben Harper, I might not start with this one (I might start with Fight for Your Mind), but this one would do too.

The title White Lies for Dark Times is quite appropriate to match the social, cultural, and economic times of this country. The mood and lyrics of his songs also match quite well. Overall, I think Harper does a phenomenal job with this new album and this new band. I am never disappointed at what he has to offer. He is always changing, growing, and creating, and I respect that. I love this Ben Harper guy. He's just so good. And that's all there is to it.

What do you think of Ben Harper or White Lies for Dark Times?

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