"Benjamin Wagner has been playing New York's watering holes since the early 90s. His songs are straightforward, with easy-to-hum melodies and memorable choruses. Now on his sixth CD, the boyish singer/songwriter is part bard, part blogger, crooning about life in the big city and on the road. He's Ryan Adams without the 'tude, Pete Yorn without the hair, John Denver without the glasses, Dave Matthews without the dance moves."
With "Love & Other Indoor Games," Wagner drops the facade. Forget the city, forget the road, in fact, forget the games. This one's all about love. Falling in, falling out, and getting over. Wagner explains:
"The album title is lifted from Judy Blume's 'Are You There God, It's Me Margaret?' (which I loved when I was a kid). I chose it because every song relates to loving, or wanting to be loved. And because the 'Other Indoor Games' somehow buffered me from hipster criticism, my own, and the real thing. Love's not cool, so I softened the blow with cynicism.
"But it's weird. It's become abundantly clear in the last few weeks that those 'Other Indoor Games' are bullshit. Hearts break, and hearts mend, yeah. But it's important stuff. It's big stuff. It's not a game, played unwittingly or otherwise. It's the real thing. It's even better than the real thing. It's all that matters."
Wagner recorded "Love" with longtime producer colleague Kevin Anthony at his Control-One Studios in New York City.
"Kevin and I have worked together for years," Wagner says. "We recorded 'Almost Home' last year, and we play together in The Smith Family. So we have great shorthand. He gets it. And he gets the sounds."
The sound of "Love" is sculpted from the rocknroll essentials: electric and acoustic guitars, bass and drums. It's shaded with cello, mandolin and tabla. It's equal parts anthemic and intimate, hopeful and hopeless.