Ben Lee | Ripe (New West)

cd_benlee.jpgLee’s gone a teensy bit over the upbeat edge, as Ripe veers a bit too often into schmaltzy territory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Lee is so likable, you want to enjoy the music he creates. He’s always been thoughtful while pop-driven, an easy combination to appreciate. On his last album, Awake Is the New Sleep, Lee had gone through a spiritual awakening of sorts; it made for sometimes deep, sometimes complex thoughts, many of them upbeat. And, for the most part, it worked.

This time around, Lee’s gone a teensy bit over the upbeat edge, as Ripe veers a bit too often into schmaltzy territory. While first single "Love Me Like the World Is Ending" is all kinds of charming, the "ooo-ooo"s—and, really, the whole point—of "American Television" are a bit much to bear. "Birds and Bees" might just pull it off, but for female-male counterparts ("I’ve never done anything like this," says he, to which she retorts, "Yeah, right." Ouch!). "Sex Without Love" (hands above your head, everybody! Now clap!) is just wrong.

The strengths of Ripe lie in its more serious numbers. "Is This How Love’s Supposed To Feel?" is more somber, slower; Lee’s not trying to be cute, but asking hard questions about a topic that’s even harder to define. "Blush" is amazing, oh so strong; I never get tired of the pedal steel and the smooth-yet-rugged sound of this track. "Hungry" also captures this sound, the dark and desperate emotion Ben Lee does so well. And the title track, saved for the end, is a deliciously stripped down song with simple, vivid imagery.

Other non-embarrassing tracks include "Numb," which is upbeat yet not tongue-in-cheek, and the humorous yet slight "What Would Jay-Z Do?" Ripe‘s an uneven release, to be sure; while I’m happy for Lee’s spiritual rebirth and happiness, I must say I prefer him when he’s wanting. B- | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: Ben Kweller, Ben Folds, Cary Brothers

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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