Brendan Benson

Lapalco

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On Lapalco, Brendan Benson enlists help from like-minded popster Jason Falkner for a golden power pop record reminiscent of Matthew Sweet's best work on albums like Girlfriend. Five years in the making, Benson's sophomore effort was long-awaited by the devoted fans of his debut, One Mississippi, which Esquire writer Jeff Gordinier listed among "the greatest overlooked pop masterpieces of the decade." But it's on Lapalco that Benson really hones his jangly melodicism and crunchy bubblegum riffs, fusing influences like the Kinks, T. Rex, the Beatles, and Paul McCartney's solo work into something more meditative than his debut. The album begins with the electronic keyboard gurgle of "Tiny Spark," an instant single that sounds upon first listen like you've heard it a thousand times before. And that's not all Benson can do. "Metarie" is wistfully repetitive. "Life in the D" plays John Lennon's solo career through Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers, and you half expect Benson to break into, "I'm just sittin' here watching the wheels go round and round...." The album has its moments of cringing goofiness, too, like, "I've been a little bit down on my luck, I think you know where I'm coming from. I need a pickup and I don't mean truck, I think you know where to get some" ("You're Quiet"). But, it's forgivable, especially with the last three tracks, "Pleasure Seeker," "Just Like Me," and "Jet Lag," where Benson stakes claim on a sound all his own -- bittersweet, down-tempo, semi-acoustic, melancholy with a sense of humor and just a little bit psychedelic.

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