After his self-titled debut turned into something of a sleeper-cult hit record, Ben Seretan is back with more lush open-eyed pop songs. Embracing sound, music and the world in general, Bowl of Plums is about the richness you can find by accident if you just keep your eyes open. Think Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver.
LP on Love Boat Records & Buttons. Includes a risograph-printed insert and kitchen table graphic inner sleeve. Edition of 500 copies.
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It’s another dramatic injury time defeat for our staff as we compare a record to the completely incorrect acts and get our hopes up for the completely wrong thing. Having heard comparisons between Ben Seretan and folk-hushed titans like Sufjan and Bon, it’s clear that we’ve previously only listened to half of ‘Bowl of Plums’, a record of mathy tectonic shifts, huge post-rocked climaxes and a very reach-for-the-stars approach to being a solo artist.
My instinct is to like Ben Seretan a lot, for he is an emo rock groaner: “Cottonwood Tree” is full of feeling in the ascendance, with oscillating riffs babbling out chaos as he half-hums, half-sighs his chorus’s lyrics. The record’s title track dilutes guitar twang into a stilted drone before pushing into a track of twinkling guitars and a lyric that’s half last-gasp, half slice-of-life: “I’m so happy I could cry / bowl of plums on the table”. Opening on ambience, it’s a track that utilises the renaissance-to-ruins dynamics of the World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (n.b: don’t use that band as a comparison again. Too long).
All the moments are quite nice, if you’ve already been indoctrinated into this emo-tinged-indie world. I love the math ballad “Getting Out”, which posits Seretan alone in a nice empty room, bouncing around his guitar with the free-flowing genius of someone speedrunning Super Mario 64 (it’s an emo record: let me do the nostalgia thing). On “Thommy”, his guitar stretches out and creases around light but essential percussion, much like a Dirty Three cut: inconsequential and gorgeous, it floats about the place. He plays piano, too: is there nothing he can’t do? Probably. But I don’t have the time to dig up dirt. So he gets an 8.
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