You might be wondering who Benchmarks are – you’re not alone. This indie band are so under the radar, they don’t yet have a Wikipedia page, which only made me more interested in them. On March 24th the Nashville native alternative rock band, formed in 2012 will release their first album, Our Undivided Attention, since the release of their 2015 EP American Nights, which features a few of the same tunes.
Our Undivided Attention kicks off with “This Year”, a slow, unassuming song. I love when a band starts with a slower tune, it’s a bold choice but when done right can set a record off with an interesting pace. Benchmarks accomplishe this, before moving into “Frames”. A sure-fire single, that begins sounding like The Ataris, I couldn’t help but think “someone needs to get these dudes a Bonnaroo ‘What Stage’ performance!” because this tune was seemingly crafted to be played at festivals as it has that larger-than-life, big stadium sound.
Half way through OUA is where I feel Benchmarks hit their stride. “Girls and Boys” is a radio-ready tune with the perfect level of sing-along, head banging accompanied by dance-inducing chords, the keys sound like middle-of-the-road Blink-182, and the addition of a female voice 3 minutes in is a nice touch with shoegaze vibes woven throughout. The following track, “Thieves and Assassins,” probably won’t get the love it deserves, but it’s a killer song rife with raw guitar, harder drums and frankly it belongs on the soundtrack to a kickass teen movie where the nerd gets the girl.
As the album progresses I can’t help but wonder why every alternative rock band goes through a phase where they feel the need to sound so fucking whiny. It’s not a criticism, rather a serious question. Some of my favourite bands carry the same tendencies from album to album. I grew into music in the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket (Blink-182), Gob “I Hear You Calling”, Dashboard Confessional “Hands Down” age – a retired emo kid, I get the pull to cantankerous energy. But it’s hard not to question why a band chooses to emote such melancholy. Especially apparent on tracks that don’t end up being singles, and in the end, seem needless.
That being said, Benchmarks’ use of slower melodies, quick guitar and steady beat are worth noting. The very subtle vocal twang, and rounded off consonants by lead singer Todd is certainly a unique touch. Benchmarks are a band that are classified as alternative-rock, but put them in a time machine and send them back 15 years and they would have been thrown in the pop-rock category alongside the likes of heavy hitters like Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday, and New Found Glory, where they would have fit in nicely.
Our Undivided Attention displays Benchmarks’ clear talent as musicians. I, for one, am excited to see how their career progresses with their interesting take on alt-rock.
Our Undivided Attention Track Listing:
01. This Year
03. Sharks and Minnows
04: Let You Down
05. Girls and Boys
06. Thieves and Assassins
07. Days are Slow
08. I Never Thought
09. Paper Napkins
10. When We Were Kids
11. Next Year
Run Time: 40:58
Release Date: March 24, 2017
Check out the band’s track “Girls and Boys”