Ben Kweller

We get a lot of records sent to us here at The A.V. Club. Fortunately, we end up liking some of them. In Playlisted, we share our latest recommendations.

Album: Go Fly A Kite by Ben Kweller (out now on The Noise Co.)

Press play if you like: Singer-songwriter power-pop with a heavy Beatles influence, piano-based tunes, Ben Folds Five with guitars.

Some background: When Kweller was a teenager, his first band, Radish, attracted a metric ton of hype, but it ultimately only released one album, 1998’s Restraining Bolt, which failed to live up to lofty expectations. Kweller released his first solo album, Sha Sha, in 2002, and followed with three more albums, 2004’s On My Way, 2006’s Ben Kweller, and 2009’s country-tinged side-trip Changing Horses. On Go Fly A Kite, Kweller returns to his power-pop roots, putting the artists who influenced him on full display. The chugging “Out The Door” sounds like a Basement Tapes outtake, and on “Gossip,” he apes John Lennon’s vocal inflections. And it’s hard to not to feel the spirit of ’70s AM gold weaving through the riff of the laid-back “Free.” The album’s strongest moments are when Kweller filters these inspirations through his own sensibility rather than imitating them, like on the jaunty, piano-driven “Full Circle” and the raucous “Time Will Save The Day.” Kite is a strong, mature collection from a musician who experienced more before the age of 30 than most songwriters do in their entire careers.

Try this: The album’s rousing lead-off track, “Mean To Me,” is also the album’s catchiest, a more polished, horn-punctuated, and grown-up version of the Sha Sha highlight “Wasted And Ready.”

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