Benjamin Cartel is no stranger to making music that quickly connects with its listeners. That’s something he’s always excelled at, first with the substantial attention and acclaim accorded his duo Kaiser Cartel, and then, with a return to his solo career. To date, the latter has yielded two
highly acclaimed efforts, an EP called Money and Love and a full-length outing entitled Gothenberg, each of which helped broaden his reputation while underscoring his obvious ambitions.
“Benjamin Cartel’s songs can often conjure the same subliminal tension as that of a Randy Newman or John Prine” - American Songwriter
With Cartel’s upcoming release, Flickering Light, he moves the needle even further, opening up a sonic palette that not only reflects his expansive musical vision but also reflects his attention to craft and detail through astute, articulate arrangements and a sound that’s both stirring and sublime. Co-produced by longtime colleague Mike Cohen, and recorded at Trout Studios in Brooklyn (home to recordings by Evan Dando and Joan as Police Woman) and Flower Studios in Minneapolis (which birthed records by The Replacements and The Jayhawks), the new album
found Cartel intimately involved in every detail of the process. With Cartel playing guitar and
drums, Cohen contributing guitar and Kieran Mulvaney anchoring the proceedings on bass, the
results verify that fact that Flickering Light is easily Cartel’s greatest achievement yet.
Then again, Cartel felt a decided connection to each of these songs, most of which were written
and accumulated over the past few years.
“When I write, I like to have a story to write about,” he
insists. “I often take my inspiration from things that friends of mine have experienced. Then I’ll write the song from a first-person point of view and create a lyric that’s completely direct. Other times I’ll take my own experiences and share them through a song. Either way, I see myself as a storyteller, and while the narrative may not always be completely literal, I do try to interpret the
events with some imagination and put myself in the center of the song.”
With the release of Flickering Light, Cartel is realizing that vision like never before. “I’m not trying to overwhelm anybody,” he says. “To me, less is more. At the same time, I live and breathe what I do. There’s nothing like a good catchy melody to convey emotion and inspire my