Ben Kweller

A natural-born romantic, Ben Kweller's new album, Sha Sha, bubbles over with the solfège of love--the bop-bops, the do-do, do-dos and the ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bas that give voice to the heart's joy and yearning. From piano ballads to acoustic pop to raved-up rockers, there's a spirited innocence on his album too often missing from rock. Like the Beatles singing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," Kweller taps the sunny rambunctiousness of his youth (he's barely old enough to drink), reminding us that a part of the ambivalence of life is the delight that's possible. "We can't let it change, our lives can braid," he sings on "Make It Up," acknowledging, "we're constantly afraid." But that's just what it is, Kweller says, and despite it, "there's people meeting on Mars and people crashing in their cars and kids are kissing under the stars." Kweller's mop-top optimism leans on his hard-earned resilience and echoes like a clarion call with the recognition that anger, frustration and despair are backward-looking emotions, while love and hope turn our ass to the past and our face to the future. Let's hope pop music follows that lead.

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