In Sightlines, his third EP in two years, Steve Benjamins provides listeners with an otherworldly, airy type of indie pop. The Torontonian’s dynamic vocals are very much like James Blunts’ – his style varies from the downtempo pop typically associated to the crooner to the dance/house of Calvin Harris or David Guetta. The six tracks are all melodic; while some are downright jaunty, they all retain an element of melancholy chiefly built on Benjamins’ powerful, expressive, and soulful vocals.
“Sightlines” and “Steamroller” are two songs of the “James Blunt” type. The gentle, sparse beginning of the former builds up one layer at a time, as if the steady and smooth vocals are calling each to join the melody. The mood in “Sightlines” is enhanced with almost delicately plucked strings, the length pulled from each note played on the keyboard and the heartbeat-like drum rhythm. On “Steamroller” we can most appreciate Benjamins’ vocal range and talent. Once again, the layers are many but each is extremely simple, creating a track one can listen to one aspect at a time.
A very simple piano section opens “We Used to Live”, which turns very early on into an upbeat, catchy, light dance/pop track. The anthemic chorus is infectious to say the least, bringing to mind current Calvin Harris.
The song most apt to gain mainstream success would be the emotional and intense “Exploding Boy”. It starts again very simply but swells more quickly than the others on Sightlines into something more. The electronic beat and high tempo percussion, combined with the lyrics, give it a “call to action” feel. There does seem to be something missing, as if the story isn’t fully resolved, perhaps a way for Benjamins to indicate that this is only the beginning.
Aptly enough, the harmonies on the midtempo, piano-driven “Devotion” contribute to the track only with indistinct humming, the sort associated with some meditational practices. The piano contributes to the song by repeating the same simple melody over and over again, around which the vocals draw various powerful images, such as a cozy place or the safe embrace of a loved one. It’s a breeze that closes up the first half of the EP. “Later On” could have easily been stretched longer than its current 1:24, but some of its strength lies in its brevity. Just as light as its length is its piano-driven, string-enhanced instrumentation. It is an interesting way to end the EP, as if with a promise of more to come.
Sightlines is an interesting collection of well-produced songs. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about Steve Benjamins is available on his Facebook page as well as on his official website.