It’s too early to speak of a career renaissance, but there is definitely an air of renewal around Dlugokecki. Prompted perhaps by the release of Archive, a select career-overview spanning over fifteen years of recordings, it feels like the exercise of selecting these songs has encouraged a look inward and resulted in a revitalisation. That is now however, and this release is all about then, and how we got here.
Ben Dlugokecki fashions tales of love, loss and isolation – classic singer-songwriter fare – but within these sagas he manages to infuse copious amounts of joy. From that friction springs a sense of mystery that demands attention, and so you listen a little more closely, and an hour later you discover yourself an hour older, and a little bit wiser. There is real depth to these songs, they are shadowy and, occasionally, surprisingly demanding, and yet they are radiant, demanding repeat listening. That, of course, is what separates great music from the throwaway fare of the top 40.
It is easy to trace the arc of Ben’s journey here, from the raw optimism of his earliest recordings through to today’s full-band productions, the result, surely, of close observation of the bands with which he has shared a stage: Snow Patrol and David Gray among them. There will be no lazy comparisons here though, because they would be inappropriate; no, what Dlugokecki has honed through his years of experience is an ear and an eye. An ear for melodies that push against his lyrics, and an eye on what his audience is reacting to, giving them more of what they didn’t even realise they wanted. If you’re looking for a way in, the rapturous ‘Save My Soul’ is the place to start – Ben knows it too, it’s the opening track.
So here we are in 2018, a chapter is being drawn to a close with the release of Archive, and yet it isn’t the end of the story. Part two, if I may call it that, begins with the release of the current single ‘The Bliss’. It’s an effortless progression, not a diversion. The sense of elation is vivid, the joy more alive, and there’s drama here too. Live, it’s an anthem in waiting, and a springboard to greater things. It’s not on the album though, so that’s two records you’ll need to buy, and buy them you will.