Marco Benevento is used to doing things for himself. Since launching his solo career six years ago, Benevento has co-founded the label that releases his music, The Royal Potato Family, and built the studio, Fred Short Sound, where he works whenever he’s not on the road. He’s written, arranged and played his largely instrumental anthems, leading a band from behind his customized piano and a tiny armada of drum-machines and sequencers, keyboards and pedals. But until Benevento set out to complete his fifth solo album, he’d never sung his own songs, a strange omission for music that’s so often been lyrical. That changes—decisively, assuredly, triumphantly—on Swift, the boldest and most bracing album of Benevento’s career.
Abetted by producer Richard Swift (Shins, Damien Jurado, Foxygen) and featuring Benevento’s core touring band: Dave Drewitz on bass (Ween) and Andy Borger on drums (Tom Waits, Norah Jones), an ease and energy radiate throughout Swift, its nine tracks every bit as delightful and kinetic as the title suggests. Opener “At the Show” is a handclap invocation, the big-bottomed drums and fleet keyboard line motioning toward the dance floor. “Eye to Eye” moves with an indomitable swagger, while closer “Free Us All” prompts eyes-closed, mouths-open bliss. Even “No One is to Blame,” the album’s ostensible down-tempo drift, can’t suppress the excitement of the new setting, the new singer or the new approach. Its climax offers arching catharsis, Benevento’s multi-tracked harmonies curving like a rainbow. On “If I Get to See You At All,” Dreiwitz’s bass dances atop the track, his rich fuzz-tone affording the melody the feeling of a sinister carousel. And on “The Saint,” he and Borger emerge as powerhouse, the viscous bass line rumbling over drums that slow and spring, stutter and stomp. A minute into the track, Benevento has to wait for just the perfect moment in which to slide his silvery piano.
An album of crisp, strange pop songs, sliced through with a wholly original approach to piano, electronics and songwriting, Swift is the singular artistic statement Benevento was destined to create at this point in his continually evolving body of work.
Marco Benevento Swift available from the Royal Potato Family.