Last Friday at an in-store appearance at the Disc Exchange in Knoxville, Tennessee, Ben Sollee explained to a crowd of thirty or so people why his music is the way that it is. “People keep asking me ‘What genre is your new album?’ And I just don’t understand why I have to put a label on it. Why can’t the music just stand on it’s own?” This is a fair defense on Sollee’s part, because his music is incredibly difficult to define. There are no borders or boundaries in his musical world. This was clear on his debut album Learning to Bend, but Sollee made it even clearer on his sophomore album Inclusions. The genre-blending cellist got help from a pair of DJ’s (DL Jones and DJ 2nd Nature) to help him crack the code on what Inclusions was meant to become, and the result is eleven freak-folk songs featuring hints of all other genres.
The opening track “Close to You” mixes an array of horns and strings over lines about feeling connections with nature and the things around him. This use of combining a mixture of instruments is seen all over the album, especially on tracks, such as “Bible Belt” and “Cluttered Mind.” Sollee utilizes percussion much more on Inclusions than he did on his debut album, and this is best demonstrated on tracks like “Hurting” and “Electrified,” with drums beats serving as the driving force of the songs. The closing track “I Need” is one of the most beautiful songs on the album, a back-and-forth verse-swapping ballad between he and Cheyenne Marie Mize
If Inclusions is proof of anything, it is that Ben Sollee does not want to limit himself to anything. After all, the man rides a bicycle to his shows as opposed to riding in a vehicle. But what really makes Sollee so unique and so inspiring is his strong belief in the healing powers of music. He sees that ability in all types of music, too. He challenges himself by taking the entire gamut of music and tries to make it unified. On Inclusions, Sollee does that brilliantly.
Standout Tracks: “Hurting,” “Captivity,” “Electrified”
Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars.