I don’t know how much you know about Ben Rector, but he happens to be my favorite musician. Favorite is a loaded word, and so is musician, but simply put I love his songs. Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of driving, so naturally I’ve been listening to Ben’s CD’s on repeat in anticipation of his new album Magic. As it turns out, 6.5 albums is the exact amount of time it takes to drive from Spokane to Butte. It’s also the amount of time it takes to drive from Butte to Yellowstone. The .5 in 6.5 is because Ben released four singles from the new album prior to my departure. I couldn’t get enough of those four songs, and my expectations for Magic quickly climbed through the roof. These expectations were compounded by the fact that his albums have successively been better and better since Twenty Tomorrow. That being said, I had no reason to believe Magic would be any different.
Fast forward to yesterday; I scheduled my morning around enjoying Magic in the best way possible. For me, that meant a two hour crisp summer morning walk along the river and falls. The first track, Extraordinary Magic played and I was blown away. My soul was smiling and my expectation for the rest of the album grew even higher. Then the next four songs played … which all happened to be the four pre-release singles. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed all of the singles, I was getting a little impatient since I had already listened to them all countless times and just wanted to hear the new stuff. I forced myself to listen to them anyway, however, because artistically speaking I think it’s important to experience albums in full. After the singles, there was a track called Kids that was pretty great but not better than the singles. Then Green, good but mainly because I live in the PNW. Sometimes, okay kinda sounds like some of his other songs. Wherever You Are, loving the 80’s ballad vibe but the instrumental hook is cheesy. Over and Over, pretty good but I can’t take any more Ben Rector songs with the lyrics “young and dumb”. Boxes, unique lyrics and vibe … but oh gosh that synth brass is overwhelming. Peace … classic Ben song … that’s a good and bad thing. Finally Love Like This, incredibly beautiful song … but honestly I found myself singing the lyrics and melodies of other songs like Make Something Beautiful, The Men That Drive Me Places, More Like Love, and Forever Like That. Dang that’s it.
Here’s my final take on Magic … the only bad thing about the album is that I came into it with expectations and kept comparing it to everything that it’s not. I wasn’t enjoying the songs or artistry because everything was in reference to something non-existent in my head. So sorry Ben that I ruined your album.
This morning I gave the entire album another listen and decided to detach from comparison. No more critical analysis, just enjoying it for what it is. As you might imagine, it completely transformed my experience of the album and songs. Instead of thinking about what the songs aren’t, I found myself actually enjoying the songs for what they are. That being said, I can now say with confidence that Magic is amazing! Might even be his best yet. So Ben … I just want to say thank you. Your talent and music continues to inspire me.
For me, Magic was a simple reminder that comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t compare life to everything it isn’t … enjoy life for exactly what it is.