The Storytelling Behind "These Two Windows", Alec Benjamin's Debut Album

Another chapter to the rising singer-songwriter-storyteller’s narrative, Alec Benjamin’s debut album "These Two Windows", released on the 29th of May, is a further dive into the stories and complexities held by the boy, uncovered in the 2018 mixtape "Narrated for You". The 10-song collection, which includes hits like Oh My God and Mind Is A Prison, is a personal, yet universally-felt, experience, established through Alec’s typical letter-like verses. They, when combined with guitar-plucking and light instrumentals, resonate simplicity, while also conveying emotional depth. 

The singer, who scored a twice-platinum single, Let Me Down Slowly, last year, conquered not only fans around the world but also recognition from John Mayer, his long-time idol, and other musicians, including Billie Eilish and Kevin Abstract. The ascending star’s newest record is no exception to such acknowledgement. Oh My God has cracked the Top 40 Radio list and the music video for Jesus in LA has amassed over 10 million views on YouTube, making Alec the 23rd most heard singer on Spotify internationally. 

spotify, phone, headphones, music"These Two Windows", named after Mind Is A Prison’s metaphor of the organ of sight, sets itself apart from other productions in the pop industry, due to the fact that its melodies are more than what meets the eye - or rather, the ears. The singer’s uncanny ability to detail topics, from internal conflicts to tales he lived, rendered him the title, by Time Magazine, of “a storyteller for the next generation.” Every track, indeed, is a story - being his, and, perhaps, the listener’s as well. 

His narrative tendency is transmitted, predominantly, in the intertwining of the album’s elements. When listened to in order, the set depicts linearity in its narration. Songs like Mind Is A Prison and Demons, for example, even complete each other. While the former expresses the feeling of being unable to escape your own mind and being a prisoner to spiraling thoughts, the latter describes the restlessness hidden under the surface, and how he was supported and cared for, even though he couldn’t verbalize what he felt. Both, however, show the process from melancholy to healing; from “All by myself, alone with my thoughts again”, to “I thought I'd have to bear this weight by myself / But when my knees were getting weak and I was in need of help / You were there to take away the pain that I felt”.

Other tracks where similar links can be found are The Book of You & I and Match In The Rain, as well as Jesus in LA and I’m Not a Cynic. The first pair reminiscences a past romance, a love story cut short, and how the speaker, despite his intuition telling him it’s too late, tries to bring back the relationship - a task as hard as lighting a match in the rain. The second one reflects Benjamin’s experience in the music industry, in which, after being dropped by his old label, his promised dreams were left behind, making him lose his optimism - and maybe even himself, as revealed in Oh My God’s verses “Have I gone too far, am I on my own?”, and “I'm running out of oxygen / Can't help but wish I'd stayed”. All around, "These Two Windows" is filled with intertextuality, within and in relation to the composer’s other previous works.

The distinctive vocal phrasing of the songs also gives way to the portrayal of ordinary tales through Alec’s melodic voice. Must Have Been The Wind, for instance, one of the album’s most acclaimed singles, captures, altogether, his gift of storytelling. In a gentle approach, he conducts an anecdote surrounding his neighbor, a woman in a seemingly abusive relationship, to which he offers comfort and help. The lyrics regarding such a sensitive topic are thread with sympathy and words that carry emotion packed stories within.

Musically, the mixture between folk and pop, and the overall minimalism of the record, combines perfectly with the raw, sophisticated, and intimate songwriting. Simply put in his own words, "These Two Windows" is a “take on what’s been recycled throughout history. That’s what makes my retelling of these stories unique.” It is a must-hear and must-feel melodious adventure, not only to pop fans but to listeners all in all.

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The article above was edited by Laura Okida.

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