Ben Lang‘s debut EP, Modern Man, showcases his original style. It’s off-balance, country-tinged, singer-songwriter fare. Slightly Americana with a hint of folk but firmly, most definitively focused in Ben’s solidly written songs and delivery.
One of my favorite pieces of biographical information about Ben Lang is that he was a founding member of Biv and the Mnemonics (or, more fully, Roy G Biv & The Mnemonic Devices), a San Francisco-based band that released a couple of albums in 2009 and 2013. Honestly, I haven’t yet checked out the music (even though I just shared the link), but I’m sure, at the time, I would have because I love the band name.
But I disgress. Let’s get back to talking about Modern Man. EP-opener “Houston-New Orleans” is driven by a repeated, thump-along rhythm, propelling Ben’s strumming and storytelling-style sung (not spoken) vocals. It’s the sort of tempo and energy that’d be likely to draw you into a live music venue if you heard it while passing by. I enjoy the whole disc, but this is probably my favorite song on Modern Man, though it’s a close call.
The title song, “Modern Man” plods along a bit more obviously, in the stylistic sense, inasmuch as the rhythm really smacks you in the head. Within the context of the song, though, it moves the tune along pleasantly, as if “Modern Man” is a directed conversation with rhythm.
The mellowly energetic “Nailin’ It” sports a guitar-pickin’ style and a song structure that builds on itself throughout, increasing interest and engagement over the course of the song.
“Hollow Spaces” is more sparsely instrumented than the rest of the disc, an open – hollow – space in an already light-touch collection of music. This lightness is followed by the much more energetic, quick-tempoed “Tee Off With Your Head” – as a listener, you’ll think, “Well, I should have expected that contrast.”
Ben closes the EP with “Mr. Moon,” an old-fashioned, near-crooner that even includes the lyrics “ba doom, ba doom,” fittingly, Vaudevillishly shuffling this EP to its final note.
If not for the hint of country, I’d compare Ben’s sound to Brett Newski, and, in fact, listening to Ben’s music makes me wonder if Brett’s catchy alt-singer-songwriter fare didn’t veer a bit more country, if ever so slightly, than I had realized. Regardless, I found Modern Man to be an EP that’s a pleasant introduction to Ben Lang’s hip, comfortable style, a style and a set of songs that start out nice enough, then grow more enjoyable with each listen. I’m not sure if I should credit Ben’s songwriting or performance style more, but Modern Man is a fine disc, and I’ll gladly look forward to Ben’s follow-up, whenever he creates one.
Technically, I’m looking back, but on November 27, 2020, Ben hosted a virtual album release concert for Modern Man.
Looking ahead for real, whenever Ben’s next live performance happens, you might find it on the “Events” tab of his Facebook page. I’d have to guess they’re pleasant, light-hearted, good-time affairs.