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Benjamin Cartel

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After earning a buzz as one of New York City’s up-and-coming songwriters, Benjamin Cartel put his solo career on hold in 2004, the year he co-founded the indie folk duo Kaiser Cartel. Years later, that band is still moving along… and Cartel’s solo career has earned a new set of wheels too, thanks to an EP that bridges the gap between Wilco’s wry rock & roll and John Lennon’s classic pop.

Money and Love is Cartel’s first solo release. Like the musical influences that spawned it, the EP is a mix of old and new. Several songs, like the vintage pop/rocker “No One,” were written before Kaiser Cartel’s formation. Others, like the rave-up title track, are newer compositions. “Julia,” one of the album’s harmony-drenched highlights, was written somewhere in the middle. Cartel looked everywhere for inspiration: relationships, the road, even old Alfred Hitchcock movies.

The recording process began at The End Studio in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with Mike Cohen (Lucinda Black Bear). Cartel recorded the songs simply, strumming an acoustic guitar while two friends chimed in on bass and lead guitar. He then sent the bare-boned recordings to his friend and occasional tour mate Kristoffer Ragnstam, an indie pop musician living in Gothenburg, Sweden. Ragnstam, along with his bandmate Joel Lundberg, added layers and arrangements to Cartel’s songs, turning what began as a skeletal EP into something more fleshed-out and eclectic.

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