Thursday, May 7, 2009

Review: 'White Lies for Dark Times' by Ben Harper and Relentless7 for Tom Magazine



White Lies for Dark Times (Virgin/EMI)

Ben Harper’s new project with Relentless 7 sees the artist move in a new direction with this blazing, emotion-ridden folk/roots/classic rock hybrid. Harper’s signature vocals and guitar are augmented by Jason Mozersky’s on lead guitar, Jesse Ingalls on bass and keys and drummer Jordan Richardson. This, Harper’s 9th studio release, brims in part with darker, tougher and sometimes downright pessimistic influences. Half of the tracks, like the lead single ‘Shimmer and Shine’, are focused on finding happiness through escapism.

The darker tracks are the backbone of the record. Harper does depression surprisingly well, especially on the resonating break up track, ‘Up To You Now’, "You wrote a list of all your demands/ and you nailed it to both of my hands". ‘Skin Thin’ is a sparse and raw folk track that again deals with failures, "It’s all I can do to hold on/ we’re just skin thin". ‘Fly One Time’ is the highlight of the record with almost restrained vocals; "now you’re caught between/ what you can’t leave behind/ and all that you may never find/ so fly".

White Lies for Dark Times flows well from one track to the other, with no real rough patches. The record has the feel of being a complete album, not just a collection of songs, with a discernable theme slipping through each track. The mixture of the forlorn and the hopeful is a winning combination.

(Anna Angel)

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