First Impressions: Benjamin Lazar Davis – self-titled

Through no fault of his own, Mr. Davis found himself in an unenviable position this Sunday morn: I’m still aglow from my rendezvous with singer-songwriter Mindy Smith last night, the first in-person concert I’ve attended since the pre-pandemic month of February 2020. Yet the slinky, syncopated rhythms that accent this, his self-titled sophomore set, have more than held their own for the past few hours. It’s one part Prince and one part Josh Rouse, lo-fi funk and oddball rock, though the “lo-fi” and “rock” parts aren’t exactly accurate. It’s well-produced and more minimalistic, McCartney-esque pop (except when it’s not).

All in all, in other words, it’s an eccentric set with much to offer.

In some respects, now that I think about it, it’s similar to Elizabeth & the Catapult’s equally eccentric sincerely, e. from earlier this year, but with that album’s straight-up pop swapped out for his off-kilter, though no less enjoyable, beats. The other difference: His grainy vocals, which often rest above a bed of classical instrumentation and electronic wizardry.

“Remember,” along with several others, was cowritten by Sarah Pedinotti (aka Lip Talk), and features Joan as Police Woman on backing vocals. Other songwriting collaborators include Will Graefe, Lake Street Dive’s Bridget Kearney and Alex Toth. Throughout, as the above clips demonstrate, the music tends to bend to the arty (sans pretension, I hasten to add), saying more by saying less. And then there’s the straight-up, hook-laden “What If I?” 

To return to my sincerely, e. comparison: Like that sterling set, it’s a layered affair that reveals more of itself with each listen. Play it once and you’ll play it again, guaranteed, and each time through you’ll hear something you missed the time before.

The album is slated for release this Friday (11/19) and can be preordered via Bandcamp.

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