Vinyl LP pressing includes digital download. North Carolina's Benji Hughes fronted a rock band in the '90s. He's written commercial jingles ("Got a Little Captain in You?" for Captain Morgan rum). He's made music for film and television (Walk Hard, Eastbound & Down). He released 2008's A Love Extreme, his excellent double-LP debut record. But these ventures aren't different hats Hughes wears. They're not different paths traveled. This is Hughes playing in different keys. Now, for his first full-length on Merge, Benji Hughes is playing Songs in the Key of Animals. Recorded over two years mostly at Frisbie studios in New York, the record is 41 minutes of pop-music exploration. The album has a summertime immediacy but an evergreen resonance (see "Longshot"). It's clever but too deep for punchlines (check the excellent back and forth of ("Picnic"). It is sincere ("Girls Love Shoes") yet heartbreaking ("Song for Nancy"). It's eccentric but never forced in it's strangeness.