Ben Kweller - Go Fly a Kite (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Ben Kweller

Go Fly a Kite (2012)

The Noise Company

It's weird to think that Ben Kweller's solo debut full-length, Sha Sha, came out a decade ago. It's even weirder remembering that Sha Sha was actually Kweller's comeback record, after his grunge band Radish fizzled in the '90s. With all this history, though, it is not weird, then, that Kweller's latest record, Go Fly a Kite, feels like an overview of his discography to date. The singer/songwriter has done a whole lot of living in his career.

Of course, the tracks that will likely make the biggest impact on fans will be the ones that sound like lost Sha Sha cuts, if only because Kweller hasn't written with the Weezer pop rock songbook in a while. "Mean to Me" is a fantastic opening number, from the crashing drums to the grungy guitars to a massively catchy chorus. The hook is so simple ("You don't know what you mean to me"), but Kweller imbues with such pop distinction that, in the moment, it feels like the most important sentiment in the world. Of course, that triumphant horn section helps out as well. Other Sha Sha-ish selections, like the folksy piano piece "Justify Me" and the grungy "Time Will Save the Day," are just as jubilant.

But for all the early aughts nostalgia Kite might invoke, it arguably has more in common with Kweller's last two albums, the piano-laden indie pop Ben Kweller and the country exploration Changing Horses. It's definitely there in the music--it's easy to tell which tracks would fit on which album--but also in the lyrics. Sha Sha and On My Way mean a lot to me, but they have some of Kweller's goofiest, nonsensical lyrics. Chalk it up to youth or weed, but he hasn't written that way in a while, and Kite's words reflect his more mature outlook. Yeah, these are still primarily love songs, but Kweller's songwriting skills have gotten to the point that he can tell an entire story without bringing up non sequiturs like karate or spaghetti.

All of this description is basically a really long preamble for one statement: BK's new record is pretty good. It has some nice indie rock bits and a whole lot of easy going '70s rock moments a la George Harrison. The diorama packaging is a little annoying, but it glows in the dark, so that's cool. The important thing is that, 10 years later, Kweller is still turning out quality tunes. Kite manages to encompass much of what's made his efforts over the years so appealing, and is, in a way, the best introductory BK record for new interested parties.