Ben Kweller

Ben Kweller (ATO)

On his third full-length, baby-face Ben Kweller has raised the bar, not only for his own budding career, but also for his competition. Despite its unassuming and eponymous title, Ben Kweller provides an effusive, exuberant, and wholly infectious example of classic pop pageantry, boasting more hooks than a fishing fleet in spawning season. Yup, it's that good, and it suffices to say it's ready-made for radio play ... that is, if radio still had an ear for classic Top 40 fare.

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Nearly every note sounds familiar from the get-go, which doesn't mean Kweller is retro or redundant. Rather he's got a handle on how to create a celebratory sound that's instantly engaging. Opening track "Run" more or less sets the standard; its euphoric harmonies and buoyant refrain fit it midway between an anthem and an embrace. With this eager overachiever playing a veritable arsenal of instruments, the songs run the gamut of moods. Love-struck yearning is evoked in "Red Eye," "Until I Die," and the misty-eyed piano ballad "Thirteen." Then there is the giddy, unabashed, contagious jubilation that pervades "I Gotta Move," "Penny on the Train Track" and "Magic." This album is breathless beyond belief, and it's difficult to imagine 2007 will produce a more radiant or sumptuous recording.

 
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