Album Spotlight: Ben Morey and the Eyes - "Still Life"

>>A good rock and roll band treads a thin line of duality. You have to not give a damn and let everything be natural while at the same time give more of a damn than anyone else on the planet. It's a blend of confidence and cool, of seriousness and aloof elation, of showing your influences without being them, of betting all your chips and then folding on a full house. None of this can be taught; it is either completely natural or developed over time. Ben Morey and the Eyes are a good rock and roll band.

There is a modern Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks feel, but if Uncle Tupelo Jeff Tweedy was the song writer instead of Dan. The song Vacuum is a great example. It's a great track, with fuzzy overdriven guitars and bends and melodies and busy tom fills. It sets the tone for the versatility of the album as it is followed up by it's most popular track Ghost in the Attic.

It has a country, honky tonk swing, complete with saloon doors and spitoons. There's a John Prine and Iris Dement feel with less tongue in cheek humor and a simple bassline that is effective and glues the song together. It's catchy and pretty and could easily be heard on alt stations alongside country. The duet is with Mikeala Davis and the two tracks that feature her happen to be the most popular songs on the album.

Mikeala has considerably more followers and that is most likely the reason. But it's also possible that her voice blends so well with Morey's writing and the backing musicians that she could have found a semi-permanent home. The two of them together is certainly a force to be reckoned with.

In a Hole confidently blends modern alternative rock with an early 70's vibe for what might be the album's most vibrant and eclectic song. The guitar fuzz sounds a little Austin Powers, but not in a goofy comedic way. It's in a perfect fun-filled way that makes you wish to revisit the song even before it's over. The tempo changes are welcomed with open arms and toe-tapping. Maybe a tip of homage to Lane Staley? It doesn't matter. It's a really great track. Maybe the albums best.

If Ben Morey released a punk rock track it wouldn't be surprising. The album visits all sorts of different styles. It would most likely be just as expertly produced as everything else on Still Life; a clean, crisp, sun-dried white sheet. There are tones behind the tones, even the drum's toms are crispy-clean. It works for this band and its nuances are even better in a nice set of headphones.

There's a general 70's feel to the whole album. It could be the backing organ or the fuzz face guitars or maybe the hook-filled choruses, but on songs like Deja Vu, it's literally all three. The trading guitar solos, one in each ear of the headphones, organ slightly leaning in the right ear, and the repetition of "Vu" ringing is just a whole bunch of fun.

If you're looking for a great way to start 2021, revisiting this album is the perfect option; this well-rounded blend of well-written songs from a group of really talented musicians will brighten your year and leave you waiting for their next album. The title "Still Life" could possibly be a nod to the Impressionist painters of long ago, like Cezanne, or maybe it's just a simple statement, "Still Life" as though we all need a reminder that we're all still alive after the whirlwind of 2020.<<