The Local Outsider #15: a “name and name” special featuring Ben&Ben, Leanne and Naara and Migz and Maya

Once again, I find myself writing this at the very last minute. But then there’s another thing: I find myself inadvertently doing a themed installment to the Local Outsider. Last year I did the same thing, so I guess it’s a tradition now? Maybe if I keep this up, it will. Anyway, still playing catch-up, because I don’t really write about acts that start to gain steam – except for some rare cases; that, and I have been meaning to write about one of the acts this month for, well, months now. The fact that there’s a theme – that “name and name” naming convention – is completely coincidental. Or so I’d like to believe.

 

Scratch what I said earlier: I have written about Ben&Ben before. Sort of. Back then they still called themselves the Benjamins. That, and it’s really a token mention, so this time I hope to somewhat catch up. Yes, I already know of their earnest, occasionally gloopy but completely… I wouldn’t call it forgivable; it suggests begrudging acceptance. I’ve listened to a few of their tracks and I never had the “eurgh” phase before liking what I hear. It’s the honesty in their songs that draw you in, and in a world where “indie folk” is just another aesthetic, this is refreshing. I was hoping to review their EP when it first came out, but I got busy and things got crazy, so… okay, this might be another token mention, but “genuine” that doesn’t need to insist that it is goes a long way. (That does not quite apply to the music video, or perhaps I am just not in the mood for “aesthetic”.)

 

I would call Leanne and Naara inescapable, but I’ll have to admit, despite seeing their names on tweets for the past few months, this is the first time I am listening to any of their songs. There is a new single, “New York and Back”, but I have to be late, so here I am, listening to “Again”, somewhat catching up on the duo’s origin story – they wouldn’t cross paths if not for being blockmates at Assumption – and wondering why their name suggests “typical acoustic duo” when it really isn’t. Inevitably, it’s the jazzy undertones that draw me in. All right, it is lounge-y, but sometimes I like that. That, and the girls have fantastic vocal interplay. There’s no point where I force myself to figure out whose voice is which, because I equally like both, and it all comes together really nicely. It’s not sexy, but it’s sensual. Do I even dare say that? There are kids listening!

 

Finally, swinging to the other side of the fence, Migz and Maya. They’ve been around for the couple of years, and have done a bunch of things separately – he was on YouTube; she was with this obscure girl group called Blush, which I actually remember from when they performed on So You Think You Can Dance, although I don’t think she was on that line-up. Unlike the earlier acts they’re clearly built from parts, but the interplay is pretty nice too: their vocals are both breathy but they don’t really fight each other. (Also, “Ambon” is actually a pretty crafty song.) Suddenly I’m reminded of that time a decade and a half ago when “acoustic” artists dominated the radio, until we all got tired of it because it all got same-y. This duo doesn’t quite move towards that – but then, the seeming variety of sounds these days means they don’t really have to face that problem. And that’s it for this month’s column. The “and”. [NB]

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