INTERNATIONAL POP OVERTHROW
Benjamin r – A recovering engineer/producer from Studio City by way of Talahassee, FL, Benjamin r has stepped out from behind the board and put his singing and songwriting front and center…and we are extremely glad he did! The songs on his debut record, the other side of nowhere, are hook-filled gems that even greats such as Elvis Costello, The Beatles, or The Pixies could be proud to call their own!
David Bash : From IPO Music Festival:
Our Saturday evening IPO Los Angeles festivities at Molly Malone’s are off to a flying start with Benjamin r, a local four piece band whose sparkling, hook-filled pop tunes are definitely a feast for the ears. Benjamin’s got one of those voices that’s just as well suited for powerpop as it is for polished pop rock, and the band does both with aplomb!
International Pop Overthrow
BENJAMIN R IS GOING SOMEWHERE WITH THE OTHER SIDE OF NOWHERE
It’s been some time since I have reviewed an artist that wasn’t submitted to the site (I think the last two might have been the Evergreen Terrace Review and A Day To Remember Review), but while surfing through some music I have had filed away for quite some time, I came across Benjamin R’s The Other Side of Nowhere and thought it deserved a write-up.
Here are some excerpts from Benjamin r’s bio, which can be found on the Benjamin r Website.
Benjamin r (aka Robert Selvaggio) is a singer/ songwriter originally from Tallahassee, Florida. He has spent most of his life with an equal fascination for both creating and recording music.
After spending most of the 90’s either playing in bands or doing solo/acoustic gigs in and around the southeast, Robert finally decided to take the plunge and purchase his own recording equipment in order to record/produce the band he was in at the time. “I knew a little about how it all worked so I wasn’t flying totally blind…It was a great experience. I think the record only sold 300 copies, but it did get a lot of attention for how it sounded.” As a result, calls started coming in asking if Robert was available to record other local bands around town. One thing led to another and after Robert produced a few demos that got national attention, he found himself working full time for some pretty big names…Finally in 2007, he made the decision to leave the comfort of the major label studio gigs and focus on producing his own record. He started going back through the many songs he had written over the years and chose 11 that he thought worked well together…After a few setbacks, including a broken wrist, which put things on hold for much of 2008, Robert has finally finished and released his first solo record “The Other Side of Nowhere” under the name Benjamin r.
The song topics range from feelings of hopelessness (‘Quit’) to hoping for someone to be the great equalizer in your life when things seem to be unraveling (‘Falling Apart’) to hope for a better tomorrow (‘Beautiful (Ugly Now’)).
The tempos of the songs also vary, so whether you are more a fan of the slower singer/songwriter types or more upbeat songs, you can find tracks you enjoy. ‘Beautiful (Ugly Now)’ is an example of the first, and ‘Falling Apart’ is a perfect example of the latter.
Like I have said in previous singer/songwriter reviews, like the Justin Black Review and Hot Streets Review, people who love this genre of music tend to like EVERYTHING they hear, even though most of it is so generic and doesn’t stand out at all.
Luckily for Benjamin r, he has enough originality to break out from the pack and provide something worth listening to with The Other Side of Nowhere.
“I do what I do. I sound the way I sound. I love melody. I don’t care about trends or getting on commercial radio. I only care about staying true to myself and writing the most honest music I know how.”
And that right there is one of the most honest things we’ve heard out of a musician’s mouth in quite some time.
BMF – BILL’S MUSIC FORUM
Just three songs into this CD and I was desperate to learn more about Benjamin r, wondering why in the world I’ve not heard of this guy yet. Robert Selvaggio, otherwise known as Benjamin r, has ‘come out of nowhere’ with his excellent debut CD, “The Other Side of Nowhere”. My hope is that this release takes him somewhere big.
With a solid foundation in producing and recording acts from Jewel to Puddle of Mudd, Benjamin r decided in 2007 to track some of his own tunes. 2009’s “The Other Side of Nowhere” is the result – lucky for us! Benjamin r generally writes in the style of Crowded House, and sounds somewhere in-between Mark Kano (Athenaeum) and – believe or not – Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day (especially on “I Don’t Need This Anymore”, one of the strongest tracks on the disc). But for the more coffeehouse songs, he reminds me a bit of Elliot Smith (check out “Letters”).
True, Benjamin r’s expertise as a recording engineer shines on this sonically pleasing debut, but it is the pop rock sensibilities that have won me over. The first half of the disc is remarkably strong, infusing a bar band rock sound with catchy powerpop melodies on tracks like “Tell Me I’m Wrong”, “Falling Apart”, and “History”. The second half of the disc is not bad by any means, but it did not capture my attention as quickly. All in all, a very strong debut, and I hope to hear a lot more from the other side of nowhere.
iPOD-worthy: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9
BMF-Bill’s Music Forum
Fans of The Rembrandts(vocally, Benjamin r sounds like Danny Wilde mixed with Ric Ocasek), Gin Blossoms, Crowded House, Dada, The Grays, The Odds, School Of Fish and The Caufields will find familiar territory here but updated for the present. This kind of pop is timeless, afterall.
It`s a scorcher of a accessible power pop album for all! There`s layers of sweet, brash and crunchy guitars, slippery riffs and heavy smatterings of hot, arousing breathy vocals. Oh yeah, tasty mounds of brash, filler-free guitar that we don`t get enough of!
Where did Benjamin R come from and why is no one talking about this guy!? Well, I`ll do my best to address that oversight and tell you that you should stop right now with reading this and get rocking to the samples here.
Extremely Highly Recommended!
KOOL KAT MUSIk
The long gestating debut record from this California based singer/songwriter (whoes real name is Robert Selvaggio) is full of emotion and honesty. He took a professional detour into the production booth after an Indie release he boarded got significant praise for its sound. One thing led to another and before he knew what was happening Selvaggio was working on projects for the likes of Jewel, Eagle Eye Cherry and Puddle Of Mudd. After seven years in production, he decided to take a step back, build his own studio and work on his own material. Ane we’re awfully glad he did! There is something for everyone on this disc. Acoustic guitar driven, this record is full of beautifully crafted songs with simple yet memorable melodies.
Kool Kat Musik
Benjamin R-The Other Side of Nowhere. This LA singer-songwriter (whose real name is Robert Selvaggio) has crafted a fine pop album that puts him right there with other contemporaries from the City of Angels such as AM and Gus Black, and also recalls Pete Yorn in places, especially on the engaging opening track “Quit”. The uptempo “Falling Apart” is another standout, bringing Keith LuBrant to mind, and the melancholy “Tell Me I’m Wrong” also hits the right melodic notes. He also has a way with the ballads too, as he demonstrates on “Beautiful (Ugly Now)”, while “Time is Running Out” has a bit of Jon Brion to it. An impressive debut.
The Other Side of Nowhere (Independently released CD, Pop)
Imagine a talented singer/songwriter/producer with a voice that sounds something like Emitt Rhodes and whose songs sound slightly similar to Ric Ocasek…and you might begin to have an idea of what Benjamin r (note that he does not capitalize the “r”) sounds like. Although Benjamin has worked with many well-known artists (including Puddle of Mudd, Jewel, and Eagle Eye Cherry), not surprisingly he seems more focused on making his own music rather than producing others. The Other Side of Nowhere ought to help get the word out to the world about this guy’s music…because he’s super talented and his songs are surprisingly catchy and accessible. And not in a bad, crappy, sellable way either. Although just about every track on this album sounds radio-friendly, these songs are solid and good. Nice slick mid-tempo pop/rockers include “Quit,” “History,” “Time Is Running Out,” and “Letters.” (Rating: 4+++++)
It took me a while to figure out what the new record by Benjamin R reminds me of. Then, while I was listening to it one day in the shower, it came to me: The Grays, the kinda obscure band uber-genius Jon Brion was in, back in the day. Like Brion, Benjamin R has a signature sound that’s hooky and melodic, but with unexpected haunting twists. His debut album, The Other Side of Nowhere, tastes like the guy took all the best of classic 90s power pop & ran it through the welcome-to-the-21st-century-and-PS-I’m-a-little-moody-today machine. What came out the other end was his own unique musical alloy.
This California musician filters melancholy ruminations through sparkling hooks and well crafted melodies that stay with you . “Falling Apart,” “Not Gonna Let You Go,” and “Time Is Running Out” are the kind of rocknroll amuse-bouche you can easily imagine throngs of 20-something girls flocking to hear on a Friday night. These head-bobbers are sprinkled across a field of more acoustic-y, inward-looking songs that triangulate the territory between bummed out, angry and fatalistic. And get impressed: he played all the instruments except the drums himself. The Other Side of Nowhere is definitely a good place to hang out.
RIYL: Badly Drawn Boy, John Vanderslice, Jon Brion, Ben Kweller, The Rooks, The Idle Wilds, Gigolo Aunts.
Robert Selvaggio aka Benjamin R was a music engineer for bands like Eagle Eye Cherry and Puddle Of Mudd. He steps out from behind the production booth with his own material here. Robert makes good use of his studio smarts, and the sound on the opener “Quit” is quite impressive. Sounding like a cross between adult oriented pop and rootsy rock, similar to Neil Diamond or Ric Ocasik. Some nice touches and electric violin on “History” make it a great ballad. “Not Gonna Let You Go” has a good chorus, and the steady guitar rhythms and organ lead make it the most Cars-like. Another good song is “Time is Running Out” and the slightly celtic rhythms of the mid-tempo “Letters.” Some songs are very emotionally strong, like “I Don’t Need This Anymore.” The entire album’s theme sounds like the script for a slow painful divorce and the angst clearly runs in a progression from “Falling Apart” to “This Time (I Hope You’re Happy)” – not so cheerful, but a solid debut.
JENNIFER MOHNEY- music lover/critic
Benjamin r’s (Robert Selvaggio) history of working as engineer/producer shines through on his first release under the Benjamin r moniker. His mastery of all things studio and as a musician is evident from his use of recording gear to playing the majority of instruments on all 12 tracks. We might have a bit of a prodigy similar to Prince with this one kids, look out!
Something that makes an album unforgettable to me is if I can listen to it from start to finish in the car without moving on to a different track. …The Other Side Of Nowhere is a great road trip disc, which on my scale rates it as a 7 out of 10. My rating does not mean it isn’t good, it just means it isn’t perfect– but it’s damn near close.
Keeping in mind that perfect releases to me are as follows: The Bends by Radiohead, U2’s Achtung Baby, and Tim by The Replacements. These are not easy recordings to blow out of the water by any means, damn near impossible, actually. So a 7 out of 10 from me is not too shabby, and is the equivalent of an 8.5 or 9 from someone else. I am a difficult and harsh reviewer when it comes to tunes.
Quit: This opening track has the essential build-up to power-pop perfection with an
Beautiful (Ugly Now): This song is built for a film montage of a man in distress. I mean,
the song has to go in a film, today.
The Hunger: Starts very dark in a good way. A bass track like a psychotic heartbeat.
This may end up being my favorite track with the dreamy bridge and
hypnotic chorus. Dark, gritty and sexy, all in one song!
Track to avoid:
Fool Myself: Wait. Is this Alice in Chains, Puddle of Mudd or Soundgarden? Did I just
hear the chords from Dear Prudence? Catchy damn chorus that sadly gets
left behind while the audiophile tries to figure out what band they are
listening to and why they already know this song.
Luckily, I am thrilled to say that overall Benjamin r’s The Other Side of Nowhere falls unequivocally into the prize category if you are a fan of power-pop.
Robert Selvaggio plies his musical trade under the name Benjamin r, these days. The Florida native is a singer/songwriter who took a professional detour into the production booth after an Indie release he boarded got significant praise for its sound. One thing led to another and before he knew what was happening Selvaggio was working on projects for the likes of Jewel, Eagle Eye Cherry and Puddle Of Mudd. After seven years in production, Benjamin r decided to take a step back, build his own studio and work on his own material. Aside from an ill-fated snow boarding trip that ended in a broken wrist, Benjamin r began to produce The Other Side Of Nowhere, a collection of 11 of the many songs he’s written over the years.
Benjamin r reminds me of an extremely mellow version of The Cars’ Ric Ocasek crossed with late-career Tom Petty, in a mish-mash of slick geek pop crossed with grizzly Pop/Americana. The Other Side Of Nowhere makes a slow start, not really hitting stride until the fifth song. Not Gonna Let You Go grabs the listener with a catchy Americana arrangement with distinctive Pop hooks. Benjamin r keeps it up with Fool Myself and its vaguely urgent emotional qualities. Time Is Running Out brings to mind some of George Harrison’s more Pop-oriented Folk/Rock. Benjamin r hits the heights on I Don’t Need This Anymore and This Time (I Hope You’re Happy). The two songs could track the same relationship at different stages, with Benjamin r realizing he just can’t stay in this relationship anymore in the former, and recapturing that realizing after falling off the relationship wagon some time later in This Time. Letters has a couple of awkward moments lyrically, but has a distinctive Celtic/British feel that will draw you in.
Benjamin r spent a lot of time producing music for others, knowing that an outsider can often find the hidden gems in music that the folks who write it and live with it can’t always see. Like many producers he may not feel this applies to him, leading him to produce his own album. While Benjamin r is well-renowned behind the boards, a doctor should never treat himself and a producer should never self-produce his own solo-effort. There are some strong songs here (particularly the second half of the album), but the lack of creative tension leaves some of that potential in the studio instead of bring it out on The Other Side Of Nowhere. It’s a decent album in its own right; I was just left with an impression that it could have been much more.
Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)