Review Summary: re-submit
On the back of Count Everest
, Benefit Friend’s first CD to have a barcode, the lyric “We’re mechanical just like everyone else” is featured prominently, bolded and in large type. This line is entirely significant to the album, in more ways than one. Everything about Count Everest, at first, is robotic. The keyboards, drum machines and vocals are all blatantly synthesized, a fact that Connecticut-born sole Benefit Friends-member Schuyler Stone does little at all to hide. The vocals, in particular, are distorted and affected to the point where it is impossible to discern man from vocoder, creating what at first may seem like a complete lack of humanity. However, deep inside Count Everest, hidden beneath the layers of electronics, there is a most definite poignancy. With Count Everest, Stone takes the best qualities of European Disco (Italo, whatever) and gives it a name, a face, a personality, and, more importantly, emotion.
When Stone belts out the lyrics to the chorus of Emoticon (“ ‘Don’t look me in the eyes,’ she said, ‘I’ll *** it up’/ ‘I’m not looking in your eyes,’ I said, ‘I’m looking up’), you can feel the passion put in. Though the highly affected, inhuman delivery makes it seem almost as if a robot is delivering the lines (Schuyler’s excessively deep voice doesn’t help matters), the emotion is undeniably there. Over Ocean’s
lyrics are particularly moving, and unfamiliar overtop what sounds like a Pop song. This is not to say the combination doesn’t work well, as the song is great. On the track where the aforementioned back-cover lyric is sang, Similar Circuitry
, the vocals are more affected than ever. Here, everything is monotone and seemingly from the perspective of a robot but still, Benefit Friends manages to convey humanity and feeling.
This is all not mention that Count Everest
is catchy, dance-y and sing along-y as all hell.
The music on Count Everest is driving, and simply inspires dancing. No, *** that. It doesn’t “inspire” dancing, it demands it. The drums are clearly fake, comically obvious, but whether they are playing at an inhuman BPM or are supporting dense synthesizers in some sort of ultra-cool breakdown, it’s tough not to move. Abandon Ship
, Crocodile Child
and Weapons on the Table
are all brilliant examples of what you’d expect a college student who listens to Noise and Punk and has a penchant for writing highly accessible Electronica songs to create. On Heart Attack
, Stone shows that the word “subtle” is, in fact, in his vocabulary. The track is five minutes long, and takes on a more minimalist feel. It’s instrumental, led by a simple beat and a pulsing bass line, with euphoric, trance-y keyboard lines breaking the song into sections. Though it isn’t much like certain other songs on the album, it feels right to end with, and is certainly a highlight.
Under the guise of Benefit Friends (a name my mom constantly makes fun of), Stone has made preposterously catchy Electronica for quite a while now. With a 2 full lengths, an EP and one side of a triple split (with local, Connecticut-bred Indie/Noise bands Brava Spectre and Ladykillas) under his belt, he’s one of the more established ‘bands’ in the current local scene. His live shows, where he sets up in a corner of the floor, projects video onto the wall behind him and commands a motley crew of synthesizers, drum machines and samplers (no computers), are among the best and most fun local shows I have attended. Overall, Count Everest, sort of like Daft Punk’s Discovery, encourages singing along, dancing and feelings of euphoria, yet can easily stand up to snobbish scrutiny. Though it isn’t better than the aforementioned Electronica classic, Count Everest is one of the best local releases of the year thus far, and a beyond-solid Electronica/Pop album, easily listened to over and over.
Note: Even though our bands play shows together, and we are mentioned in the liner notes of this album, I don’t consider this review biased towards the album. If we didn’t love his music in the first place, we wouldn’t have made ourselves acquainted with him. Similarly, if I didn’t really enjoy this album, I wouldn’t have reviewed it.