Steve Benjamins' Sightlines EP plays out as a whole, similarly to how each individual track progresses from start to finish. They begin simple enough, but by song’s end, the overall composition blossoms into a full piece where Benjamins sits comfortably. The last two minutes of “Exploding Boy” are indicative of the overall merit and ability of this Toronto-based musician. Several comparisons have been made, but to me, Benjamins beckons to mind Radiohead’s Thom Yorke if he made pop music. His voice is crystalline and begs to be received unconditionally thanks to his range and style of singing. It feels humble, or modest, yet grandiose all at once. In short, yes: Steve Benjamins can sing, and he can sing well. To credit him even further, and given the opportunity, Kanye West might tell Benjamins — a multi-instrumentalist who produced the entire EP with only one other person (Brian Chan) — to respect artistry and then subsequently apologize for his blissfully ignorant inaccuracy. A hypothetical Beck-esque compliment to Benjamins’ work, no doubt.
Largely, Sightlines does its job as an EP and upon completion one realizes that it succeeds on two fronts: first, it stands-alone as a project so the artist and listener alike can be pleased with the effort, and secondly, Sightlines is an establishing moment for anyone new to Steve Benjamins. That is, you might just become a fan — it’s more than likely, actually. Personally, I’m curious as to what the next full-length Steve Benjamins album might sound like after listening to such a strong showing. Little gems are scattered throughout the six-track runtime in the form of Benjamins’ singing, lyrics, and sound design. “Devotion” is nearly two minutes of harmony between vocals and piano. “Steamroller” ends with Benjamins singing, “You don’t think about me / You just steamroll me,” in one of the most blissed out (see: heavenly or hymn-like) moments on the EP; and the thudding buildup to end “Exploding Boy" is one of the most enjoyably ecstatic moments on an otherwise mellow album (plus, he also closes this track out with his best falsetto).
Sightlines runs approximately 19 minutes, which is short, but in this case, you might find yourself listening to the EP three times before realizing you’ve had it on repeat. Sonically, Sightlines is fluid and constant. The opening title track showcases Benjamins’ structural formula — simplicity slowly shifting into a more complex end piece — and the last song delivers with the EP’s fully envisioned grand opus in terms of Benjamins’ style. “Later On” skips the simple, accumulating, openings found on the majority of the EP and instead closes out Sightlines in the strongest way possible. Thus, Sightlines as a whole mimics the compositional methodology — the stylistic theme — of the individual songs. It begins easily and finishes intricately. Like the artwork’s rolling hills, Sightlines has its ups-and-downs: “We Used to Live” and “Exploding Boy” being two different yet equal peaks, “Sightlines” sits somewhere in the middle, “Devotion” and “Steamroller” provide an emotional foundation, while “Later On” provides the best view of what Steve Benjamins has to offer.
Sightlines is multifaceted, and certainly, easy to listen to.