Cities have profound effects on their resident musicians. Beyond offering supportive communities and subject matter, they imbue artists with a sense of identity. You can't separate LCD Soundsystem from New York, or Frankie Knuckles from Chicago; sometimes, the key to a musician's appeal lies with where they live.
At first glance, Moon King's Daniel Benjamin seems to lack that connection with his adopted home of Hamtramck, MI — and yet, he's still apt in naming his latest EP after the two-mile town nestled near the Motor City. Following guitarist/vocalist Maddy Wilde's departure in 2016, Moon King has morphed from a dream-pop duo into a dance act that draws from the same musical wells as early techno.
Like Hamtramck, though, Benjamin isn't just a Detroit imitator. Instead, he shapes disco beats and house bass lines into a polished pop package. While the old iteration of Moon King made mammoth guitar music, the new model feels lean and minimal, even when tracks like "Come Around" are instrumentally varied. By forgoing the hedonistic maximalism of his influences, Benjamin has created a set of tracks that are as distinctive as they are enjoyable.
Hamtramck '16's focused sound shows off a gift for melody that Benjamin has only hinted at in the past. His thin tenor may not be soulful, but he's still able to be playful ("In & Out") and plaintive ("Just a Minute") with equal success.
Changing cities can be an unsettling experience for anyone, but it's especially fraught for those whose work expresses some form of emotion. Thankfully, Benjamin already feels at home in his adopted sound. (Arbutus)