Ben & Jason

Ten Songs About You

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Ben Parker and Jason Hazeley would seem to be perfectly likable souls. The music they craft as Ben & Jason is uplifting, gentle, and usually wholly endearing. But with Ten Songs About You they settle into a formula of forced poetic lyrics and overwrought musical motifs that get old quite fast. Where their previous album, Emoticons, bubbled along and bounced its way into one's head with maximum catchy pop euphoria, Ten Songs lingers and flounders in a dazed sense of sappy sorrow. In their earlier days, the duo's work with famed Nick Drake arranger Robert Kirby bristled with excitement. But with the Nick Drake revival dimming well before the release of this album, especially after every other band appropriated Drake's style and spirit, Ben & Jason suffer here from not moving past a nearly clich├ęd inspiration. The album's syrupy veneer is far too polished. Their once-prevalent hooks are buried beneath tired string arrangements, bombastic anthemic Brit-pop guitar effects, and semi-ridiculous instrumentation. For every moment of great songwriting, there's something to ruin the stew, whether it's a misguided accordion solo, Oasis-like posturing, or strained rhyming. Indeed, one of the album's best songs, "Great Days," sees a Nick Drake rip-off that's so blatant, it's cringe-worthy. Ben & Jason likely had good intentions with Ten Songs About You, but the melodrama and overly ornamental production make for a less than compelling listen. Certainly there are fine, subtle moments of grace that peek through the polish, but 40 minutes is too long to linger in a one-note mood. These Ten Songs About You, when assembled together, are hopefully just a hastily assembled bump in the road from this otherwise promising pair.

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