[VOX HUMANA] I don’t envy any new artist trying to get themselves noticed these days. Unless they’re packing some major-label heat, the only way to crack the full-to-bursting head and hard-drive space of most modern-music listeners is to go viral: maybe get a song placed in a high-profile TV show or make a kooky YouTube video.
Or those artists can do something quirky like Ben Mason has: record an a cappella EP full of cover songs. As the title suggests, this isn’t the first time the Australian singer-songwriter has attempted this. Volume 1 featured all-vocal reworkings of some of Mason’s favorite acts from his native country. But for this new disc, he tackles our hometown talent as a tribute to the month he spent in Portland befriending a number of local musicians.
It’s tough to toss Volume 2
aside as a calculated attempt to draw attention to Mason’s own
understated pop tunes. Especially as he chose some fine Portland songs
to tackle, and for the most part, does it with aplomb. He wrenches the
Shins’ “Fall of ’82” from its derivative New Wave roots, and beautifully
echoes the haunted heart of Laura Gibson’s “Skin, Warming Skin,” all
with the power of his own multiple mouths.
But after those opening tracks, the EP quickly wanes. Mason’s multitracked voice is no match for the country swagger of Fruit Bats’ “You’re Too Weird,” nor is he as fragile a singer as Shelley Short, which gives his take on “Time Machine/Submarine” a strangely tart feeling.
Instead of sending listeners to Mason’s original music, Acapulco Volume 2 could have the reverse effect, sending listeners toward the original versions of the songs covered here. Perhaps that’s what he wanted. But if that’s the case, wouldn’t a nice mixtape have sufficed?
SEE IT: Ben Mason’s Acapulco: Volume 2—PDX is available for free streaming and paid download at benmason.com.au.