Ben Kweller - On My Way (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Ben Kweller

On My Way (2004)


One of the most surprisingly solid and incredibly enjoyable debuts in recent memory, Ben Kweller's 2002 effort Sha Sha found it's way inside my stereo hundreds of times that year, eventually earning a place in between Thrice and The Promise Ring on my Top 10 of 2002 list [and I wasn't the only one to think the album was that good, either]. So needless to say, there was a little bit of pressure on Mr. Kweller to record a strong follow-up.

Record it he did, and it is here in front of you, going by the name of On My Way. Kweller's sophomore effort, at first listen, almost sounds like a slight regression of some of the majestic pop-rock that graced Sha Sha. The hooks are a little more obvious, the instrumentation a little less adventurous, and the lyrics a little less mysterious than before. But that's what's so wonderful about this album - it lulls you into a total false sense of security. The next thing you know, you've spun it ten times in a row, are singing the songs in the shower, and forcing yourself drudge out your earmuff-sized headphones to actually listen to the album as you walk to class.

Kweller has essentially outgrown his grunge-pop phase, leaving his Weezer influence far behind. More present on the album is a strong songwriting ability evident in piano-driven tracks like "Hospital Bed" and the gorgeous, lush closer "Different But The Same." It's obvious that the time spent with his compatriot Mr. Folds has paid off in spades. The guitar-rock is still in full swing on the album, though, and while it's more basic, it's still so much fun [see "My Apartment" and "The Rule"].

The real album standout is the subdued acoustic melody of "On My Way." This track is to On My Way as what "Lizzy" was to Sha Sha - an introspective look inside Kweller's psyche, leaving no emotional stone unturned. The raw recording of the album really comes into play here, as you can almost imagine the needle go into the red as Kweller howls "Aww mom, I never thought that I could love no one." This sounds like a demo in the best sense - it's unpolished and real.

Ben Kweller has done what so many other singer-songwriters have a hard time doing - not just avoiding a sophomore slump, but improving on what was established beforehand. The album takes a bit longer to really get involved with, but is worth the wait. Completely worthy of the 5-star rating.

Stream 4 songs here