It still drives me crazy that Ben Lee is two years younger than me. When I was in my Senior year of high school I was a normal 17 year old guy, Ben was 15 and part of a band that, in certain circles, was huge. He hung out with the Beastie Boys and had Liz Phair as a guardian. Talk about a wet dream! But, now Ben is all growed up and a solo act. He's a fantastic singer and song writer and seams to be evolving every day.
Lee's new record "Ripe" is definitely a bit of a departure from his last smash hit "Awake is the New Sleep" which was all the rage a few years back. Ripe features a few songs that will tug at heart strings and a few that will make you laugh, most notably "What Would Jay-Z Do." Tracks like "Sex Without Love" and "Love me Like the World is Ending" are the types of songs you could easily see an 18 year old girl pick as their MySpace song based on title alone. But, there's substance there too.
In 'Like the World Is Ending', Lee crafts beautiful images and delivers a complete sentiment. He sings "I can't see so clearly when your smoke gets in my eyes. Please me with your promises and hurt me with your lies" as if covering all the phases of infatuation all at once. He shows an understanding of perspective with the line "I know the sky is what makes the ocean blue" a fantastic multi sided statement.
On the track "Numb" Lee takes the piss out of his own profession when he sings ” “I’m writing pop songs, done it for so long. Sometimes I dream about a chorus that’s so cleaver and dumb." He bemoans the state of the music industry when he continues "And now they’re telling me, the music industry, you can stay if you behave. Be a good boy and go to sleep.” He has a few big names from the industry on the record with him, however, as he Teams up with Mandy Moore on "Birds and Bees" and Benji Madden on "Sex Without Love."
Other stand out tracks are "Is this How Love Is Supposed to Feel" (one of 4 songs with love in the title) "Ripe" and "American Television." I don't know how big of an impact "Ripe" will have in America, but it is easily one of my favorite records of the year so far.