Lo-fi bedroom debut has its moments.
Benji Tranter is a Croydon based singer-songwriter originally from the Welsh borders who has had a couple of solo EPs to his name already but makes his full length debut with ‘Sings To Make You Happy.’ It’s an album very much in the now long tradition of lo-fi bedroom recordings, with plenty of hints of early Bright Eyes being a major influence on Tranter. The low mood ‘To Your Eyes‘ features a basic and scratchy guitar accompaniment as Benji Tranter sings of wanting to “have a good year / I want to be proud of my life / And bring a little bit of light to your eyes.” There’s more scratchiness, albeit more melodic, on the upbeat folkiness of ‘Speed Camera‘ which reflects on the traps of roads to nowhere as a metaphor for self-doubt and self-sabotaging even when one really wishes to climb to lofty summits. The danger of this approach to music making is represented by ‘Birthday Song‘ which goes perhaps a bit too far into the aesthetic of “right now and this is what you get” recording. It’s innocuous enough, slightly amusing but doesn’t demand relistening.
Benji Tranter also has a side band, The All-Night Chemist, who cut a path in psych-folk, and those folk influences are to the fore on the short but beautiful instrumental ‘South Downs Way.‘ Recorded with ambient sound in the background it is a little gem encapsulating a hippy-folk finger-picked guitar playing on a sunny hillside vibe. The other instrumental on the album -‘Interstellar Stroll‘ brings in a few electronic effects to give it a low-tech “spacey” feel, like a snippet from a 1950s B-Movie score.
The structure and vocals on the jaunty pairing ‘Little Satellite‘ and ‘Satellite’ owe a big debt to Belle and Sebastian, to the extent that the more fully developed ‘Satellite‘ could easily be mistaken for a demo or live recording by that band, whilst ‘When Autumn Comes Around‘ has some of the same feel but brings in a touch of The Divine Comedy. These songs were clearly worth the time required to give them a richer, fuller, sound with additional instruments and harmony vocals; Benji Tranter is an interesting performer, and maybe he’ll follow the Bright Eyes path to greater sophistication on future recordings. At the moment ‘Sings To Make You Happy‘ plays most fully to the experimental, relying on that home demo feel for its charm – and that’s fine, it’s just that the fleeting glimpses of what might have been possible throughout are the highlights of this debut and suggest that there’s better to come.
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