Ben Abraham: Friendly Fire – Album Review

Friendly Fire was my introduction to Melbourne songwriter, now Los Angeles based artist Ben Abraham, and I’m genuinely frustrated with the fact that I hadn’t heard any of his music until now. The album is so masterfully crafted that Abraham’s story that inspired the album is told in the most beautiful way. There are songs telling the story of sexuality, faith, and the pain and euphoria that self-discovery can lead to.

It’s been a long time since a song has truly moved me, so when ‘Runaway’ opened the album, it gave me a lump in my throat and in a moment, I was on the verge of tears. I knew I was listening to something genius and powerful. After replaying ‘Runaway’ a couple of times, I continued with ‘War In Your Arms’ and when it played, the way ‘Runaway’ had moved me was nothing compared to this.

We don’t need to share the same experience with an artist to relate to their work, but it sure felt like Ben Abraham had written and was singing about my own personal experience that I had told him. This is what makes Friendly Fire so strong, as you can really relate to the emotion in the music and lyrics.

This may sound hyperbolic to some, but in my opinion, Abraham’s lyrical prowess is on par to Elton John and his long-term collaborator Bernie Toupin. This is shown most strongly on tracks, ‘Another Falling Star’ and ‘If I Didn’t Love You’ where the songwriting is the kind where you find yourself eyes closed, taking the lyrics in, and wondering about the people, real or fictitious, that the songs are about.

One of the true standouts on the album is ‘I Am Here’, its composition reminiscent of Paul Simons Graceland album where the music and vocals spring into joy, conjuring up images of being with friends and enjoying the feeling that being surrounded by loved ones can bring out. The song sounds like a true celebration of the ups and downs of life, taking in the good and bad and learning from those experiences. The lyric “I love, I fear, I’m here” is a simple, yet effective way of encompassing the fragility that it is to be human.

As the album progresses, the story of self-discovery continues. Friendly Fire is a concept album of the self, and the journey that needs to be taken to reach that, no matter how long or hard the road is. One of the final tracks ‘Love Myself’ with the lyrics, “I’m sorry it took so long. But I’m ready to sing my song. Gotta love myself” is something I’m sure that many can relate to, as we’ve all had feelings of frustration and regret before on something that we’ve stubbornly never accepted in ourselves sooner. It’s a beautiful way to draw an album to close, continuing the heart-on-sleeve theme that has been thoroughly consistent throughout and is an undeniable strength of Ben Abraham’s album.

Deciding what song will end an album is a tricky one, but with an album like this, it is almost harder. The listener has been on a journey with you, the story needs to have a solid conclusion. ‘Too Old Too Young’ is the denouement to Friendly Fire and it’s a satisfying one. It’s one of the most intimate songs on an already intimate album. It’s the perfect reflection song where you can think back to the start and hold the feeling of contentment from the discovery that this is a happy ending for the storyteller.

Ben Abraham’s past being the child of church leaders is evident on every song, dipping into choral music with lyrics that sound more like church hymns than typical pop songs. The hopefulness and sadness that flows through the entirety of the album is it is evident it is from a person of faith that was almost lost. Friendly Fire, however, is never preachy. Its unique sound provides a layer that any other artist wouldn’t be able to recreate, injecting that little something extra that makes the whole album of Ben Abraham’s Friendly Fire a wonderful experience.

Ben Abraham‘s album Friendly Fire is available on all good music streaming services now.
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