Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Places by Ben Beal

     What prompts people to listen to an album they've never heard from an artist they're unfamiliar with? Well, there are quite a few answers to that question. It could be word of mouth, reviews such as this one, or even something as simple as the album artwork caught your eye. The latter was the case for me as I stumbled upon the hip-hop record Places by Ben Beal, and its simple, yet enchanting cover. Having no idea of what this album contained, I blindly hit play, and it was a decision I don't regret.

     While listening to this slow-paced album, it was quickly evident that the sound of the album had been defined by the artwork. The songs sounded like a rainy day, not in the literal sense, but the track's mood was gloomy, gray, and somewhat depressive. However, this somber theme separates Places from other works, because of the innovation and emotion emitted while listening to this well conducted project.

     In terms of Ben Beal and what he brought to the table, know that he is a very talented emcee. He doesn't have the best rhymes, metaphors, or flow, but he does have a calm demeanor to his delivery which goes hand in hand with his storytelling lyrics adding yet another level of contradiction to this already anomalous album. Also, the hooks used throughout the tracks are simple yet superb (which seems to be the running theme for Places) as they seemed to tie the lyrics together ever so nicely.

     The best track, lyrically, on Places would have to be "Contradictions" which is a beautifully penned piece that has a wonderful storybook message that will surely captivate all listeners with open ears. It's also worth mentioning that this song was produced by Beal himself, the lone track credited with his production in fact.

     Continuing the previous sentence, let's touch on the production shall we? As stated before, this album sounds as if you were watching the rainfall, and while that sound is a combination of the production, lyrics, and tone, the bulk of that feeling comes from the production/beats. What's even more impressive than creating a hip-hop album that sounds like an action, is doing it with ten different producers...for ten different tracks, That may not seem like any great feat, but producers all have variant styles, and selecting beats that have a cohesive sound from such a large number of beatmakers is definitely something worth mentioning.

     The intro track "Bicycle Thief" has the best production on the entire record, in my opinion. The dreary beat set the tone perfectly for the somewhat saddening lyrics, and it really set the tone and expectations for each and every beat from that point on. It did what any and all first tracks should do, and that's draw listeners in. It did for me, so I'm sure it will for you as well.

     If it hasn't been assumed by now, I might as well go ahead and say it plainly; this record is MOOD music, meaning that it has its time and place. Places isn't the album to listen to on a sunny day with the top down. It's the album you play when you're in your thoughts and have a lot on your mind. It is hip-hop's rainy day; not wanted all the time, but needed every now and again. If you're looking for a change of pace in your music library, then Places is the way to go. Its jazzy sound may just be exactly what you're looking for, and Beal's words hold quite a lot of value if you're really listening. Lastly, remember that all it took was an interesting album cover, and six-hundred words later I'm letting you know that this is a really good album.

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Created in 2013, The Under-Cover Album Review strives to bring the world quality music, by quality artists. This motto will continue to be our foundation as we move forward in time.

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