The singer-songwriter returns with a fast-paced and self-reflective second album
Alec Benjamin does not waste time. His mixtape Narrated For You, which arrived in 2019, was followed only a year later by a debut album. Now, just under two years since These Two Windows, he returns with a focused, energised sophomore record that identifies Benjamin as a man on a mission, and that mission is to get his words out. You can identify a Benjamin track often by its pace, and this is truer than ever on (Un)Commentary – of the thirteen tracks, only one is over three minutes. Benjamin works best at this speed though, packing enough into each two-and-a-bit minutes that the listener never feels abandoned mid-narrative.
Whilst his sound is still distinctive, the focus of Benjamin’s songwriting has been shifting since the release of his debut mixtape. On Narrated For You, he gave himself space to tell stories, usually taking inspiration from outside of his own life. His debut album turned his focus inward, with more personal experiences and slightly shorter tracks. On Un(Commentary) he rattles through emotional states – the euphoria of young love (‘Speakers’), the tedium of self-resentment (‘Shadow Of Mine’), the frustration of being blindsided (‘The Way You Felt’). There is urgency to the album, bolstered by the short tracks and Benjamin’s slick lyricism, that makes it feel as if he is getting it all off his chest.
It’s this lyricism especially that elevates the album. Un(Commentary) isn’t breaking any new ground production-wise, but Benjamin’s playful use of language is irresistible. He displays his skills instantly on ‘Dopamine Addict’, the album’s opener, full of sharp rhymes (‘addict’ and ‘psychosomatic’ make for a particularly lovely near-rhyme). By the first verse of ‘The Devil Doesn’t Bargain’ – which contains eight rhymes for the word ‘useless’ in three lines – he’s practically showing off. A special mention also goes to the incredibly satisfying rhyme in ‘Deniro’, when Benjamin rhymes the song’s title with ‘the hero’. Beautifully done.
If Benjamin’s short songs force this sharpness by necessity, then long may the sub-three-minute track times continue. No track on (Un)Commentary overstays its welcome because it is always rocketing towards a conclusion – and packing as many clever rhymes in along the way as possible.