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Rockin' Our Turntables: Esser

By Veronica Murtagh in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 19, 2009 9:30PM

photo by Hedi Slimane, via Esser's myspace page
Twenty-three year old Londonite Ben Esser might just have the voice and face to rekindle Americans love affair with British pop. Impossibly young, stylish enough to have already been recruited as a muse of Hedi Slimane, and a gifted wordsmith and producer, Esser boldly debuts Braveface with a prowess for success.

Until recently, Esser was a virtual unknown who rarely played gigs and laid the groundwork for Braveface in his bedroom, crafting some of the best pop songwriting in recent years to an audience of nonexistent ears. There's a certain romantic notion that surrounds Esser's quick rise from scribbling in notebooks and twisting knobs in his house to opening for the Kaiser Chiefs on their sold-out arena tour. You can't help but smile for the kid who turned his passion to success.

Braveface finds Esser channeling his love of dub, ska and pop in his layered production. To fully appreciate Esser's roots, we highly recommend checking out the mini-DJ mixes he has available for free download on his MySpace page. We were blown away by the level of eclecticism and historical knowledge possessed by such a young talent. These mixes should be required listening for Chicago's ever-expanding roster of party DJs.

Esser's genuine love of music and adept production skills are evident from Braveface's start through finish, but it's his multi-part vocal arrangements and hooks that will turn listeners to fans. His Damon Albarn-esque voice chortles through ten tracks, all distinctly different and never boring. Upbeat numbers like the title track and the lead single "Headlock," swing along with hit status written all over their chords. The introspective "Bones" is one of the strongest tracks and finds Esser at his most reflective, letting his talent for songwriting speak for itself. But it's the finale track, the haunting "Stop Dancing," that sticks in our head long after the hand-claps end and the turntable stops spinning.

British pop has long been needing a few new players to guide the genre. A fresh voice, slick style, and a solid debut release make Ben Esser just the candidate we've been awaiting.

MP3: Esser: "Headlock"

Esser's debut album Braveface comes out August 11 on Chicago-based Chocolate Industries.

Esser performs alongside Mad Decent's Maluca and Paul Devro and Chicago's Quetzal DJ tomorrow, June 20, at Sonotheque, 1444 W Chicago, 10 p.m., $10, 21+.