Review: Ben Kessler’s “Violet”

With the release of his second EP Violet, Ben Kessler is cementing himself as a force to be reckoned with among his singer songwriter peers. Like all of his previous music, the songs on Violet are painfully detailed and honestly crafted- made all that much better by Kessler’s voice which wears every single emotion right on his sleeve. I dare you to listen and not feel something.

2022 has proven to be a huge year for the singer, headlining his first two shows and just coming off of a European tour with friend and frequent collaborator Lizzy McAlpine. He shows no sign of stopping with the release of Violet, which Kessler himself has called a collection of the best music he has ever made (so far). A bold statement for sure but I can honestly concur- it’s difficult to ever doubt him when every single release is this damn good.

Opening track “April” was released nearly a year ago and has been in constant rotation ever since. Lyrically, it finds Ben in a hopeful place- setting himself a goal of feeling better by the time April comes around when this dark cloud will no longer hover over him. Sonically, the soft production and Kessler’s falsetto feel like a comforting hug to help any listener going through something similar hold on just a little while longer. The build of the song crescendos into this gorgeous musical break after the third chorus that instantly brings chills to my arms with every listen. “I get nostalgic when the weather changes, Been dreaming strangers with your face and, Sometimes I think that I can’t face it, But changing seasons makes me shaken,” the track sets the tone perfectly for what’s to come in this project and still feels just as fresh as it did when it came out last January.

“April” by Ben Kessler

Next up is “Graffiti”, my personal favorite from the tracklist and a song that encapsulates that feeling of seeing the one you are in love with everywhere you go. It’s painful, it’s relatable and it’s a damn good song. “And I thought that I could run away, and I almost thought I would feel the same, now everybody has your face, And I’m chasing graffiti with your name, Yeah, I’d wait for you all night, Just to know that you’re alright,” he sings on the chorus. That feeling of running away from your source of pain as an act of distraction is universal- yet we all experience it in our own unique ways and are forced to reckon with the fact that no matter where we go, they will always follow us. Using his lover’s name in graffiti as a metaphor for the term “writing on the wall” which is usually used to describe an impending disaster, Ben expertly lets us in on his thought process when it comes to this particular relationship. Sonically, it feels almost dreamlike- the production on his vocals so smooth as he croons away over that haunting piano melody.

“Graffiti” by Ben Kessler

“Default” details the ways in which Ben sometimes feels as if he’s no longer human- as if he is nothing more than just some wiring and written code, doomed to be set in his ways for the rest of his time. He’s left to overthink everything that people say to him and about him and hopes that he can get back to his “default” settings, before life had become this trying. “Just rip all of my wires out, See how long it takes ’til I shut down, Twist me ’til the truth falls out, Don’t call me when you’re guilty now,” he wishes he could start again, free to be his true self and speak what’s on his mind instead of worrying how it will be perceived. I’m not always a fan of overly produced vocals but when used so perfectly in tracks like this and balanced by an impressive vocal performance, it works extremely well.

“Default” by Ben Kessler

On the next track “Just Like Me”, Ben explores the similarities between him and the one he loves and how he knows them so clearly because of their shared complexities. From the moment that chorus first hits, you can feel a rush of what can only be labeled “sonic euphoria”. It demands to be blasted in front of a crowd and sung back just as loud. “Everybody says you’re just like me, I know the shadows underneath your eyes, Could I fix your heart if I fix mine?, Baby, you’re really just like me,” it’s all about that beauty of not judging someone for whatever they are going through and instead, just seeing them clearly and loving them completely. It’s this topic of relativity that I feel like I’ve never heard portrayed so earnestly by an artist before this.

“Just Like Me” by Ben Kessler

Back in July, we featured the EP’s next track “I Could Do This All Night” in our Scalding Hot series so I’m not going to do a full coverage on it here but SPOILER ALERT, we absolutely loved it. The song continues to get better with each consecutive listen and the playful melodies implant themselves in my head for hours and hours afterwards, proving that Ben can in fact do this all night. Wow I hate myself for making that joke. Anyways….

“I Could Do This All Night” by Ben Kessler

The EP’s final track “Violet” is a stunning deep dive into Ben’s state of mind and how he approaches the idea of truly falling in love and being vulnerable with his partner. He approaches it quite hesitantly as a form of both self-preservation and the mere fact that he feels unworthy of their love. “My fingers are crossеd, One hand on your leg, Pretend for a minute, I know how to stay, I’m too scared of falling, I give less than I should, Just know that I love you, I’d love you if I could,” he confesses on the title track. The visual of him shutting his eyes so tightly that all he can see is violet when he finally opens them is so striking that it adds even more depth to the emotions behind this song as Ben lays it all on the line for his love.

“Violet” by Ben Kessler

Ending the project on this final note leaves a lot to the imagination as the track comes to a close on the line “I’d love you if I could“, which I found particularly haunting as I tried to resonate everything I had heard. In a way, it’s quite a poignant statement by the young singer who had previously felt like on earlier tracks that he needed to bite his tongue. This is a man that knows exactly who he is, even if he still doubts himself. He communicates his feelings and recognizes the traits that might be a bit toxic. The honesty and sense of self exploration featured throughout these 6 tracks is what makes music, and artists of this caliber so meaningful to this world.

The world needs more artists like Ben Kessler. Now go stream the hell out of this EP.

Violet is out now on all streaming platforms!


Scalding Hot: Ben Kessler’s “I Could Do This All Night”

Ben Kessler’s new single “I Could Do This All Night” is out everywhere now!

Stop what you’re doing! The first edition of Brew Music Friday’s new segment “Scalding Hot” is all about singer-songwriter Ben Kessler who is finally back with new music and it’s about to be your new obsession. Kessler describes “I Could Do This All Night” as a song about fighting with yourself- the constant feeling of being stuck in your own head. “I realized I wasn’t writing about being angry or disappointed – I was writing about the power and amusement of realizing your own strength,” he wrote in a post about the release. It’s gritty, relatable, and like all of Ben’s music- effortlessly fun.

Yeah I could do this all night, you throw a mean punch, but I know you can’t fight and I gave up tryna give a piece of my mind, I’ll let you be right, run all the circles you’d like, I could do this all night,” he sings on the chorus of the rock influenced track. Ben’s voice has never sounded better- both gritty and vulnerable here and filled with stylistic choices that keep you gripping on every single word he sings.

In a short period of time, Ben Kessler has established himself as a poignant lyricist and producer who has stayed true to himself through every subsequent release and collaboration. Whether he’s singing with Lizzy McAlpine on “reckless driving” or on “Love You Now, Love You Later” from his 2021 EP Cruise Control, he makes you feel every emotion imaginable. His voice has the kind of gravel that most artists merely dream of possessing- at times reminiscent of John Mayer, but like most of the greats, he’s in a world all his own.

Ben has described “ICDTAN” as the first song from the most important batch of music he’s ever created, and if this is a tease of what he’s been up to in the months since the release of his single “April”, this next project cannot come soon enough. This is game changing music, anthemic and ready to be sung on every late-night drive with the windows down and sure to be screamed at the top of your lungs when he finally announces a tour.

If you’re looking to follow a rising artist before he hits the big leagues, Ben Kessler is your guy. Sincere, down to earth, and out of this world talented- he’s the kind of artist who deserves every single bit of attention you have to offer. And he’s sure to be an absolute superstar. You can follow his socials below to stay up to date with all of his upcoming news on releases and tour dates. Cheers and happy listening!

“I Could Do This All Night” is out now on all streaming platforms!

Are there any other artists you’d like to see featured on the next “Scalding Hot”? Send me your recommendations on Instagram today!

Review- Lizzy McAlpine’s “Five Seconds Flat”

‘five seconds flat’ by Lizzy McAlpine is out now!

I don’t think there’s any other way to start this review than to simply say that Lizzy McAlpine’s newest album five seconds flat has shaken me to my innermost core. In fact, since its release, I’ve struggled to listen to anything other- it’s just that damn good.

five seconds flat brings its listeners on a journey through love and heartbreak- with a story arc crafted so beautifully by McAlpine which makes the entire project feel visceral in both its happiest and saddest moments. Her pen is magical- full of metaphors and simple details that prime her listeners to hang on every single word she sings.

hate to be lame” feat Finneas- Directed by Gus Black

I’ve seen listeners comparing her to her peers like Phoebe Bridgers and Olivia Rodrigo, and while I definitely understand the comparison- it doesn’t ring true for me. I found myself reminded of watching Sara Bareilles live- her voice so clear cutting and theatrical in the exact right times and each song filled with the most poignant of details which bring a cinematic quality to the project.

Every song swell’s as they go on, never leaving us in the same place we started. This unpredictability in the production keeps every single moment exciting- specifically in cases like “firearm” and “hate to be lame”. Producers Philip Etherington and Ehren Ebbage have done exquisite work here, elevating McAlpine’s poetic lyrics to heights that other artists can merely dream of.

five seconds flat- Directed by Gus Black

The album was preceded by singles “doomsday”, “erase me” featuring Jacob Collier, “all my ghosts” and “reckless driving” featuring Ben Kessler which are all featured in her new short film five seconds flat which was directed by Gus Black and accompanies the release of the album. The film brings all of Lizzy’s imagery to life, telling a story of having one’s heart broken, attempting the so called “hoe phase”, trying to date again and finding a love worth your while. It’s perfect, and only makes me more ecstatic to see what she has planned next. Perhaps following in Bareilles’ footsteps and writing a musical? We can only hope- but for now we have this beautiful first entry in the MCU (aka the McAlpine Cinematic Universe).

Despite the album being near skipless (I’m looking at you “weird”), there are quite a few that I’ve continued to gravitate towards more than the others- and you DEFINITELY know I’m about to tell you which. “ceilings” is dreamlike and perfect for the rainy-day blues. McAlpine daydreams of a relationship that is now over, going over the details in her head and missing the feeling- not so much the person. “But it’s not real, and you don’t exist, and I can’t recall the last time I was kissed. It hits me in the car and it feels like the end of a movie I’ve seen before,” she sings on the outro, recognizing how despite missing the feeling, she knows how the story ends and doesn’t wish to repeat it.

“ceilings” by Lizzy McAlpine

“called you again” is another heartbreaking track which describes the unhealthy cycle of a relationship that she is stuck in. She knows that she should end it, she knows that it would be best for her and her partner and yet she recognizes that even as the final few notes of the song end, they’ll call each other again. “I think that I was lonely and I missed having friends, now we don’t really talk anymore and it’s good for us both, cause I know you love me the most,” the second verse reads quite tragically and is absolutely, not at all relatable to me in anyway *sigh*.

called you again” by Lizzy McAlpine

Other album standouts include “what a shame”, “orange show speedway” and the extremely vulnerable penultimate track “chemtrails” about Lizzy’s late father. It’s nearly impossible to narrow the album down to just a few favorites so my greatest piece of advice is merely to go sit down somewhere, perhaps go for a drive and feel everything that this album has to offer.

Lizzy McAlpine is an absolute star, somehow creating a musical universe so inviting and personal that I can’t remember what it felt like to not have these songs in my life. And that’s what music is all about, right? An artist making something out of their hurt or happiness and giving it to the world, so that we as listeners take it with us on our own adventures of bad first dates and nights spent crying into our pillows.

With Lizzy McAlpine here, at least we know we will never be alone.

five seconds flat is out now on all streaming platforms, and you can catch Lizzy out on tour this summer on the five seconds flat tour!