Benji Hughes released Songs in the Key of Animals, his latest album and first on the Durham, NC-based Merge Records last Friday. His second solo record, Songs… comes six years after Hughes’ first, A Love Extreme. He has been active in the music world since the 90s, however, as one of the founders of the band Muscadine and in numerous other guises. Hughes wrote a commercial jingle for Captain Morgan, and made music for Walk Hard and Eastbound and Down.
A mostly quiet record, Songs… sees Hughes exploring different avenues of pop. “Longshot,” for example, is a dreamy piano ballad. Lead single “Girls Love Shoes,” on the other hand, opens with a nothing more than a drum beat and a monotone voice listing off things girls like before moving to a synth pop chorus whose only line is the name of the song.
It is, I submit, impossible to listen to “Girls Love Shoes” and not immediately be thrown back to 2006 and “Shoes.” Benji Hughes’ song and the YouTube video share a sense of humor, mocking the stereotype that all women love shoes and shopping for them. “Girls Love Shoes” keeps it tongue planted firmly in its cheek, an aspect of many of the tracks on Songs…. The record rarely feels completely serious, but neither does it come across as insincere.
More than any other track on Songs… “Fall Me in Love” captures this split between facetiousness and earnestness. As in “Girls Love Shoes” there are comically monotone spoken word segments in which the speaker names some of her desires. As opposed to “Girls Love Shoes,” however, the rest of the song expresses a real desire for a “somebody to fall me in love.”
With Songs in the Key of Animals, Benji Hughes has managed to create an earnest record that never quite takes itself seriously. Its love songs feel earnest and are buoyed by more lighthearted tracks.