For those who thought Ben Kweller was being cute by releasing a country album that coincided with his move back to Texas in 2009, his latest proves it wasn't just posturing. The guy can write a good country song, as well as a good pop song, and those two things converge on Go Fly a Kite, his fifth studio album, released on his newly minted Austin label, The Noise Company. That take-charge, DIY attitude is evident from top to bottom and finds the 30-year-old moving a little more freely between those sounds.
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Kweller's evolution from 2002's finely tuned pop LP Sha Sha to 2009's Changing Horses provides the platform for Kite. The Americana feel of "Out the Door" balances distorted opener "Mean to Me," and the whoah-oh-ohs of "Jealous Girl" act as punctuation between lines like, "Can't you let your boyfriend be himself?" One has to wonder if it's the tongue-in-cheek flipside to John Lennon's "Jealous Guy." The slowed-down piano of "Gossip" doesn't stop its hooks from getting in you, as Kweller has always had an impeccable ear for melody and harmony, even back in his days with Greenville punks Radish. "Full Circle" is something of a sing-along, or maybe a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are a few mid-album missteps in which the momentum lags ("Justify Me," "The Rainbow"), but perhaps he knew that on some level, because "Time Will Save the Day" picks up the tempo, ramming into a Pavement-like riff. Closer "You Can Count on Me" channels all his '60s and '70s influences. That Kweller has found a way to dovetail those sounds on his own watch proves an intriguing second act, one many musicians don't get to enjoy these days.