Layers of soul: Music has meaning
From the effortlessly chill neo-soul sound of Benny Sings, people would never expect that only a few years ago, he wanted to give up on his 20-year music career. Sings said of his music career before 2017: “I had sorta given up on myself…I just made music for the few fans that I still had, really.” Things turned around for Sings, AKA Tim van Berkestijn, when he co-wrote “Loving is Easy” with fellow pop artist Rex Orange County, and the song became a hit for many indie fans.
With his ninth album, Music, Sings turns melody into meaning with catchy and multi-faceted chords. With inspiration from genres across boards like indie pop, R&B and reggae, Sings crafts his distinct sound the furthest he has ever taken it before. With his signature clean, succinct and minimalist styles, instantly and against any human will, the head-bopping begins the minute the first song starts. With inspiration from the feel-good melodies of Stevie Wonder and the soul of Marvin Gaye, Music is a happy and thoughtful outlook on life, sitting cross-legged on a chair with house slippers on, observing the bustling city streets with a cat on his lap and the sun on his face.
The opening song of the album, “Nobody’s Fault,” is the hearty, funky, just straight groovy intro to the album. The vocals are mildly distorted and modern, and the expertly stacked major harmonies create a sunny day summer feel to the track. The lyrics of this piece tell a message of time passing, acceptance and moving on. With Tom Misch’s guitar solo at the end of the track, this song has many moving pieces making it feel whole and well-developed.
“Here It Comes” is a tribute to the R&B singers of the ’70s, with Sings telling a story of a relationship from past to present, his voice a soft and subtle hum. This one feels sure of itself, all thanks to those familiar cocky and frank R&B-inspired drum beats. Sings said this song is about himself growing up as a kid in the Netherlands, riding skateboards around the block with his skate crew.
With even more piano features, drums and some twanging bass lines, “Sunny Afternoon” feels like that first sip of cherry cola in the setting July sunshine. With the continued elements of lo-fi from the chill piano, a corral of synth strings and soft and sweet lyrics, this song is pure feel-good.
“Rolled Up,” featuring popular indie artist Mac DeMarco, is a chill and sweet track. It’s an afternoon tune, a love letter to waking up late beside the one you love. Sings sings, “There you are, right out of bed/ The lucky charm I never had/ Is this my life, it’s not too bad/ Still I’m rolled up, tossed out.” Sings said of working with DeMarco, “I think we come from the same place in songwriting. Mac came up with the first lyric, ‘Rolled up, tossed out,’ he overheard someone talking about his cigarette. So the rest of the song came from that: a person feeling like that cigarette.”
“Run Right Back” is an R&B piece with both the keyboard and the bass walking across the song like they’re strutting down the street side by side in new sneakers. The chords in this song are inspired by Steely Dan, and it features a great sax solo in the middle of the piece by Cautious Clay. Sing hails the song as “epic yet minimal.”
“Miracles” features Emily King with a strong duet, as well as some additions by Peter CottonTale’s choir. This track feels like some of those R&B soul ballads of the ’80s, like from The Floaters. The robust choir sound gives this realistic love tune a gospel-like spin.
“Music” is a strong finish to the album, reminiscent of some of Brittany Howard’s most recent work, with distinct chord progressions and personal lyrics about the soul-savingness of music. Sings said of this song, “This was the first song I wrote for this album. I was just looking for interesting chords and trying to find a simplicity in the vocals. There’s always one song that gives you the feeling that you might be writing a new album, and this one was it for me.”