Ben Jelen’s a very interesting artist to me. I actually discovered him rather accidentally while playing with iTunes’s recommendations one day, and ended up getting his debut album, “Give It All Away,” shortly thereafter. While initially unimpressed, it grew on me significantly over time, and I decided to seek out his only other full-length album, “Ex-Sensitive.”
Although it took some time to properly grow on me, I’ve found the album to be much stronger than Jelen’s debut. Much of the album seems to revolve around sort of an environmental theme – Jelen himself has said the album is about his love for planet Earth – but it’s not preachy, and it’s certainly relatable in other ways.
The sound of the album is what I’d describe as alternative pop. The instruments used include typical ones such as guitar, piano, drums, and bass, but strings, sitar, and organ are used as well, and a kazoo even makes an appearance in the title track. Jelen’s voice itself is also a strong piece on the album.
The album starts off with “Pulse,” one of the more interesting tracks on the album, which is introduced by an electric sitar and then flowing into guitar and violins, and the song gets more powerful as it progresses.
Most of the album consists of upbeat pieces dominated by guitar or piano. The second track on the album, “Where Do We Go,” is a catchy guitar piece about trying to communicate and keep a relationship on track.
Some of the pieces blend together a bit, but the album also has its fair share of slower, more emotional ballads in between to keep things interesting.
One of the highlights, “Counting Down,” is a slow song with a space-y sound about how technology is detracting from a true appreciation of life: “You dream of flying cars, and cities in the stars / From where you are, you can see everything / And looking down from space, from where you see our fate / So beautiful but we don’t see anything.”
“Other Side” is another particularly interesting piece on the album, with an organ playing in the background throughout and guitar at the front.
The album closes with the slow “What Have We Done,” which features soft vocals, plus strings and acoustic guitar for the instrumentals.
Overall, “Ex-Sensitive” is not a perfect album; some of the tracks can be hit-or-miss, and some of them just blend together. However, Jelen has a pretty unique sound, and when the album is good, it can get really good. If you’re looking for specific songs to check out, I recommend “Pulse,” “Where Do We Go,” and “Counting Down.”
It’s been noted to me that, in addition to a more objective review of the album, I should add a piece to my reviews that’s more personal, so I’ll have an addendum like this at the end of each of my album reviews now.
Personally, I love “Ex-Sensitive.” I didn’t fall in love with the album immediately, but I fell in love with bits and pieces. Since then, each time I’ve gone back to the album, I’ve discovered more and more love for it. I feel like, more and more, I have a lot of trouble finding artists with a really unique sound. I know that Jelen hasn’t redefined any genres or done anything truly revolutionary, but something about his music stands out to me.
I’m just disappointed that more people don’t know about his music. Heck, I wouldn’t even know about him if it hadn’t been for coincidentally discovering him through iTunes’s suggestions. Whatever flaws there are in it, I definitely think it’s at least worth checking out his music.