Not many high school kids can say their band touched off a major-label bidding war, but indie whiz-kid Ben Kweller's group, Radish, did just that. It wasn't until after he abandoned Radish and went out on his own, at 17, that Kweller made good on the hype with Freak Out, It's Ben Kweller, the first in a four-part series of increasingly infectious solo albums. The excellent On My Way, released in 2004, hadlyrics that played like a head-on collision between quirky and heartfelt. But the self-titled effort he's releasing this month may be even better. Kweller plays every instrument this time, like a Paul McCartney with a more authentic Beatles haircut. What may be more impressive is that nearly every song feels like some great lost classic from the golden age of pop. From the Spector-esque charms of "Run," the crush-pop track that kicks things off ("And when you sleep at night, I'll kiss you right between your eyes") to the melancholy dreaminess of "Nothing Happening," Ben Kweller is the real thing.
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