A plethora of terms have been used in recent years in an attempt to describe the emergence of bands and artists playing accessible indie rock with noticeable folk, country and bluegrass influences. Nu-Folk, Alt-Folk, Indie-Folk: call it what you like. If you feel the need to categorise, Young Benjamins probably sit somewhere in that bracket.
With anthemic lyrics, jangling guitars and bright, springy percussion, Less Argue is a gentle wash of indie rock at its heart. Veronique Poulin’s Celtic-tinged fiddle playing demonstrates a smattering of folk influences and when they really get going a couple of the tracks sound almost Balkan or Middle-Eastern. That said, there is a decidedly poppy vibe to most of the album; Young Argument is driven on by stomps and handclaps and The Colonial Pt. II plays host to a series of soaring ‘oh’ choruses. British-born Neusha Mofazzali’s high, slightly halting vocals are ideally suited to the catchy indie-pop feel to the album.
The songs are largely upbeat throughout with driving, interweaving arrangements. Mofazzali’s repeating strumming and fingerpicking and Tyson Goodyear’s varied percussion are the driving force with Brynn Krysa’s bouncy, meandering bass filling the gaps in between. Less Argue really starts to shine when multi-instrumentalist Poulin weaves her violin into this larger musical fabric. At their best, they’re almost hypnotic: all spiralling, repeating melodies. This is most evident on tracks like Out There (In the Wild), Move, Move! and, title track, Less Argue.
The lyrics here are mostly simple and impressionistic, scattered between frequent instrumental breaks. Green Eyes, (based on a Farsi poem written by Mofazzali’s Iranian grandfather), is a sweet, sunny song and all the more effective for its 57 second run time. There is an affecting quirky quality to the folky Oh Marie: “watch your feet, you might fall to the ground, but my baby stands on her hands instead and tells me I should be a better man.” Whilst there’s maybe nothing hugely original about the lyrical content there are some nice moments on the quieter tracks: simple lines like, “when the autumn calls, when the leaves do fall, when your heart is grey.” The music helps to convey a lot of the emotional light and shade and the lyrics often act more as a frame to hang the music around rather than as a focal point.
The only other niggle with Less Argue is that the tracks do occasionally threaten to merge together; with a fairly short run time the album can feel over far too quickly. Although not in keeping with the rest of the album, the sparse and ethereal opening track, The Colonial Pt. 1 (You’re Only Twenty), the middle section of Common Thief, (both sung by Poulin incidentally), and instrumental track The Solace demonstrate an interesting exploration of different textures that will hopefully be further developed to provide more variation on future offerings.
Less Argue is a catchy, promising debut and Young Benjamins have just enough about them to stand out from an increasingly crowded field. These eleven tracks certainly contain enough crossover appeal and demonstrate the requisite pop credentials to suggest it might not be too long before we start seeing them as regulars on the summer festivals circuit.
Review by: Mark Roberts
Less Argue is Out Now