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Music Reviews

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Fat Possum
Ben Jelen

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

September 28, 2007
My first experience with the work of singer-songwriter Ben Jelen came a few years back while in New York when, thanks to a friend of mine, I was introduced to his then-recently released major-label debut, Give It All Away. The music was good; it worked better as a sound and an idea than a cohesive album, but the young man behind it definitely showed a bit of potential on tracks such as "Come On" and "Christine." Beyond the highlights, however, the rest of the disc fell a bit flat, landing clearly in the piano-pop, Coldplay-esque, Brit-pop-lite vein of music making.

Flash forward a few years, with the solid, independently-released Rejected EP tossed in for good measure, and we find ourselves in the present, preparing to crack open Jelen's latest full-length effort Ex-Sensitive. Listening to this new record, it's easy to tell that Jelen has come quite a long way since his "me-too" days of making Give It All Away. With Ex-Sensitive his muse and inspiration has come from beyond the likes of whatever is at the tops of the charts, and instead takes a lasting shot at sounding like timeless works by John Lennon, both solo and with The Beatles, but with a dash of originality and uniqueness to pull it all together.

To prepare himself to make this record, Jelen traveled around the world, studying numerous musical styles and sounds - which really comes quickly into focus with the Indian sitar that opens the disc - and the subtle mix of genres that would come to make this album a real treat. As far as an over-arching theme, Jelen moves past the ex-girlfriends that haunted his debut, and instead tries to create an album about "the planet Earth and everyone on it." Though that tagline tends to sound a bit, shall we say, vague and pretentious; it instead turns out to be a fairly well thought-out representation of Ex-Sensitive. The songs here are universal, and relatable on numerous levels, much like the material created by the acts that Jelen looked to for inspiration on this outing.

Tracks such as the Ben Folds-ish "Where Do We Go," and the album closing ballad "What We've Done," show that pretty boy Ben Jelen in definitely more than what meets the eye, and there's surely a fair amount of talent and ability coursing through the young man's soul. If he stays on the path he's found with Ex-Sensitive, Jelen definitely has a long, solid trek ahead of him. Jelen's transformation is quite an impressive feat, considering his humble beginnings as a Brit-pop throwaway poster boy.

Reviewed by Trent Moore
Currently attending Athens State University in Alabama as an English major, Trent Moore is a contributing writer for LAS as well as publications such as soundthesirens.com.

See other reviews by Trent Moore



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