Benji Hughes, “Songs in the Key of Animals”

BenjiHughes_2016_SongsAnimalsBenji Hughes
Songs in the Key of Animals
MERGE
8/10

You would think that after going eight years without releasing an album, Charlotte, North Carolina’s Benji Hughes would ease back into the world, right? You’d be wrong about that. Songs in the Key of Animals, Hughes’s opus of plastic soul and guttural love-pop, bursts into being with one of the most excellent and ridiculous album-opening lines in recent memory: “Who’s that gal with the hot giraffe? I thought she ran away with a monkey.”

Hughes not only gets away with that line and a hundred more like it on Animals, his chummy confidence almost neuters their silliness. You don’t get the sense that he’s trying to test your tolerance for irony, for instance, when he turns in a Philly soul song good enough to rival Gamble & Huff—or at least Dean & Gene. In fact, Ween might be the most obvious touchstone here. Like that band’s Chocolate and Cheese, Songs in the Key of Animals treads the line between comedy and artful pop so expertly that the line itself ends up erased and then forgotten. And that means that when Hughes begs his beloved not to fall in love without him on “Picnic,” he may be trying to woo that gal away from the sexy giraffe, and he may be singing to a real woman as she walks out of his front door, but neither answer would leave you any less devastated.

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