The Cymbal Crashing Clouds
This, the second album from producer/songwriter/musician Ben Shive, will melt your mind. It’s a lush and literate train ride that carries you through a landscape peopled with prophets, piano teachers, Beatles, Beach Boys, prom punks, superheroes, little children, and dying friends; it’s an ode to the million points of light in the night sky and the holy threads that connect them to each other and to us and to the God that hung them. Like his previous album, The Ill-Tempered Klavier, Shive shows us not just his musical talent, but his equally formidable lyrical ability, and though his influences are evident it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the world fashioning a collection of songs as artful, eccentric, and unabashedly spiritual in theme.
|Preview||3||Sorry But I'm Yours||2:24|
|Preview||4||Someone Is Asking||3:12|
|Preview||6||Shooting The Moon||2:26|
|Preview||8||The Fire Pit||2:54|
|Preview||9||Your Secret Smile||2:40|
|Preview||10||A Last Time For Everything||4:26|
Comments & Reviews
Shive’s album is confusingly beautiful; I’ve not heard such a strange yet compelling blend of sounds and genres, recalling ‘80s pop, the Beach Boys, film scores, and sonic movements that can leave the listener feeling a bit off balance. Shive pulls this all off with incredible skill - in all of this mixing up there is no sloppiness, everything is carefully executed, and the result is beautiful.
Shive is both a master musician and a keen observer of life, taking the listener to the depths of brokenness and need while also pointing to the heights of love and hope. “The Fire Pit” is a haunting recounting of an accident involving a child, moving from anger, despair, and denial to reflection and hope; a fabulous track, though not an easy listen. “Your Secret Smile” is upbeat even as it addresses the reality of seeing another person robbed of joy. “She’s Invincible” is a lot of fun, a powerful callback to ‘80s pop rock, but with great musical sophistication. The theme of unrequited love is classic, but Shive’s treatment is fresh.
The last word comes with the powerful “A Last Time for Everything.” This song can stay on repeat - sorrowful in tone, with a hint of future joy - the ironic contrasts are brilliantly made and achingly communicated: “We’re running out… of fear and doubt/Yeah we’re low on loneliness” The finale of waking up from the dream of death and loss for the long vacation, recalling both Lewis’ “The Last Battle” and, perhaps, Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill,” is an experience to take and reflect on daily.
Innovative, thoughtful, and creatively rich are some of the descriptions that came across my mind as I listened to Ben Shive’s new album repeatedly for a whole weekend. It is a mesmerizing collection of songs that I thoroughly enjoy listening to. It has depth and layers that look for in good music. Definitely an album for headphones. Some observations:
“The Fall” is worth the price of admission all by itself. A must for lovers of the autumn season.
“Listen” is eerily excellent! The organic, lonely sampling of a train horn combined with earbud-loving digital percussion sets a foundation for the deep lyrics.
Then there is “EGBDF”. At first, when I heard this song a few months ago, I didn’t like it. It confused me. Now that I have sat alone with it, I have gladly changed my mind. This song has a great catchy groove that is fun, and turns melody on a dime with the story. (Being made to learn the piano vs. wanting to learn, thanks to Paul McCartney)
“Someone Is Asking” has a very urban edge feel to it (not hip hop but the hustle & bustle) Actually, the whole album has a very metropolitan feel to it.
“A Last Time For Everything” A great song! It is like the ending credits of a movie but to everything. I do have to add one critique to it though. I can hear Andy Osenga’s guitar on the sidelines (I am an addict and his guitar work is the crack) but he is not allowed to “let loose”. Why not, the song it begging for an Osenga Solo! It is the end of everything why not let the song last 6-8 minutes long? Anyway, I still like a lot.
In a world of a lot of fluff, Ben Shive is a true musical artist and a welcomed one at that who brings sustenance and substance, all from the soundtrack of Ben’s soul.
When I heard Ben perform EGBDF and Last Time for Everything on the BTLOG tour, I knew this album was going to be something. But nothing could have prepared me for this experience. One of my favorite things about Ben’s writing and production is layers. Listen is an amazing demonstration of this skill. It begins like no other - with train horns. Then beautiful piano runs. The drum loops and strings soon follow after Ben’s evocative pictures with his lyrics. The finished product is sonically deep…and that’s just song #1.
The whole album is quirky, eclectic, and unique - there really isn’t another album out there like it. Totally worth the price of admission.
- Companion Book Also Available The Cymbal Crashing Clouds