(CREDIT: fully deserved to Bentley Jones)
RANK: 4.7 out of 5 <-- Just... WOW!!
Electronic music confuses me. This is a sign that I have to dive deeper and recognize the difference between the various subgenres it contains. However, repetition, simple beats, auto-tune, and multiple layers of electronic noise often tend to be very hit-or-miss. Some acts make music that sounds fine with such elements (Hellogoodbye, Julien-K, etc.) and others make eardrums explode (Kesha, Lil Wayne, etc.) With such a thin line to walk on, does Bentley Jones hang on or fall into a pit?
From the above rank he obviously does it right.
My first experience with his music was "Dreams of an Absolution", credited as Lee Brotherton, as a character theme from Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). Despite the amount of auto-tune that drives me up the wall, there was something that captured the spirit of Silver as a character. The song almost screamed out raw a emotion I often don't expect from electronic tracks. Completely enchanted, I began immediate research and within 48 hours I bought two of his albums. Instead of jumping the gun, I jumped across the face of the Earth sixty times.
As far as Finally Free goes, it tested my overall doubt for electronic music. I honestly do not know 100% if it is "overproduced" or bathed in auto-tune, but Bentley Jones did not completely hide behind an artificial wall. There are several tracks that are beautifully performed and tempt me to not say anything objectively wrong with them. So I guess that means they... moved me? *gasp!* Some heartbreakingly pretty tracks like "Waiting for Clouds" and "Birdcage" tried to appeal to my "dead" feminine side. (Looks like HIM needs to keep this guy on their radar...) I guess this proved to me that electronic music can be as emotional and touching as anything "more genuine" with "real" instruments and singing.
According to a letter written on his website, Bentley worked on this record entirely all by himself, without a record company telling him what to do. EVERYTHING. That's really gutsy and impressive.
Of course, to keep my reputation as an immature unprofessional reviewer, I have to make some criticism. First, don't think you'll fall in love with it immediately. As a hard rock and heavy metal chick, this was absolutely true for me. Finally Free grew on me modestly after a few listens, when I had to bring out my younger pop-loving self inside. At least a few tracks use some rock elements and orchestration pieces to keep a sense of variety. Next, I can't say Bentley stands out completely as a singer. I watched some live clips of him on Youtube and he has a very nice and strong voice, but at a first listen, he might not stand out in the ears of most. This album might be the most honest work he's ever done, but it does not show one thing that makes him very interesting as an artist. Wait until I tackle TRANS//LATION 2...
What I will say though is that the ninth song sounds a bit silly in the verses. I'll bet it was done on purpose, but this - more than a few others - really sounds like a J-pop act. It's interesting, but strange.
Yet, just like Escape the Fate's self titled album, Finally Free is yet another oasis in my dry spell of jadedness. With only one song that screams "evil girl" ("ST4LK3R"), no song sounds artificial and fake, in lyrics and performance. Because there are only nine songs (not including two/three bonus tracks) I cannot provide too many links to spoil the album for anyone. But seriously, if you like electronic music that might give you a sensation of flying [free - bad pun XD], I seriously recommend this album. No, I recommend this to anyone who is curious.
I strongly admire Ben-chan's honesty and effort in this album; it makes me wonder how many musicians would do something like this... Pop, but yet not very popular - practically unknown! Geez, Bentley Jones confuses me greatly... 4.7 out of 5 since I can't think of a honest rank. My music tastes have been put into question... maybe this is a sign...!