Brendan Benson – My Old, Familiar Friend

brendRating: ★★★½☆

Lately, we’ve seen more of Brendan Benson trading licks with that one guy from the White Stripes, but when he first came onto the scene, he was a pop crooner.  His album Lapalco remains overlooked, despite all the gems it offers listeners. Now he returns with a new record, My Old, Familiar Friend.  It’s a return to form, for the most part, though you can see the shift in his writing if you’re familiar with his work.

Opening the album, you see a glimmer of the Brendan of the past on “A Whole Lot Better.”  His vocals start low, as they always go, and change to the higher tones mid-syllable.  Even the lyrics seem to recall some of the old territory, but it’s the choruses that remind you of the old songwriter of yesterday.  But, noticeably, the structure of the songs themselves have begun to change a bit, which is good, considering we all admire growth with our favorite artists.

“Eyes on the Horizon” is yet another example of his growth.  It just seems that so much more is going on within the song, and while it may not be as clean as his previous output, you can glimpse the familiar, especially in the chorus. Perhaps the inclusion of guitar solos, of the classic rock sort, give away his most recent act The Raconteurs.  It’s a more mature songwriter we find here, which explains a lot of the lyrical content, as the story line in the album seems to revolve around reflection of a lost love.

Just as you thought you had a collection of b-sides from The Raconteurs sessions, at least the ones Brendan wrote, he kicks it up a notch near the end of the album, starting with “Poised and Ready.”  While he once sounded similar to the early Ben Kweller, he appears more like a rocking version of A.C. Newman. This second half of the record though is chock full of straight ahead pop rock songs of the most sublime sort. It’s the sort of stuff you know you’ll be singing along to during your days at work.  The catchiness of “Don’t Wanna Talk” will surely have you and your friends singing along in your cars. From there you can slide right into “Misery,” which is probably one of the best songs that you’ll find here on the album.  As far as song construction goes, it’s probably one of the more open songs, and the extra space allows for Brendan to work his magic for his audience.

Nothing on this album will blow you away with creativity, but if you’re the kind of person that cherishes solid pop rock to go along with a nice long drive, then you will definitely find something for yourself here.  Brendan Benson has a quality voice that will keep you coming back for more, as he churns out pop gems with his crafty songwriting and vocal inflection.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/09-misery.mp3]

Download: Brendan Benson – Misery [MP3]

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