Ben Kwellerâ€™s self-titled third album is a laidback easy listening collection of simplistic yet complex songs and from the off is almost impossible not to like. Thereâ€™s something of a naÃ¯ve honesty about Kweller thatâ€™s as easy to relate to as his no rush Texan drawl is to listen to. Ben Kweller has come a long way since his previous two albums and his latest offering is probably his most candid and resolute work to date. Musically itâ€™s also his most impressive. Using layer upon layer of electric and acoustic guitar, piano, glockenspiel, xylophone, organâ€¦the list is practically endless and Kweller plays them all. Quite an undertaking but one that pays off and directly benefits the album, giving each song that little something extra.
Kweller offers a highly personalised narrative, sentimental in parts yet always looking to the future and always seeing the best in even the worst of situations and experiences. As is with most singer songwriterâ€™s, love is a theme that is explored and runs throughout albeit in several different guises. â€˜Sundressâ€™, complete with tentative piano and change in tempo, is an upfront love song and whilst crestfallen remains hopeful; â€˜Magicâ€™ is a sparkling dreamlike number that seemingly has the ability to mirror your own innermost feelings and â€˜Nothing Happeningâ€™ is a building, considered and reflective look at the loss of a long standing relationship. All variations on a general theme, but a theme that works none the less.
Thankfully, itâ€™s not all heartbreak and what ifs, his is the music of a wandering songwriter, describing life just as it happens. â€˜Penny On The Train Trackâ€™ and â€˜Runâ€™ tell tales of hope and an uncertain but better future all in Kwellerâ€™s unmistakable and distinctive way. Passion, emotion, sincerity and simplicity are all trademarks of this modern day Tom Petty and are used to striking effect throughout; and as with his love songs conjure up vibrant everyday scenes that can be related to by the listener on many levels. But Kwellerâ€™s resounding triumph is undoubtedly the piano ballad â€˜Thirteenâ€™. Lamenting, powerful, heart rending and as always honest and understandable:
â€œWe read books to each other, read the mind of each otherâ€¦ we laughed and we cried at movies and real lifeâ€¦ we questioned religion, gave bread to the pigeons, we learned how to pray.â€
â€˜Ben Kwellerâ€™ is undoubtedly an all American album that mixes folk and country storytelling with pop sensibilities but remains far enough removed from mainstream appeal not to be lumped together with, dare I say it the Bluntâ€™s, Morrisonâ€™s and Johnsonâ€™s of this world. His style of music is a modern day solo version of The Travelling Wilburyâ€™s (volume 1) meets Paul Simon. But before you disregard â€˜Ben Kwellerâ€™ out of hand on this comparison alone remember that George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty were all a part of the above supergroup. Once again Ben Kweller has proved that he has a very special gift and itâ€™s a gift that he has perfected and is in complete control of.