Brendan Benson rose out of the late ‘90s major label wreckage with a stunning sophomore album, Lapalco, back in 2002—six long years after his record-industry-sabotaged debut One Mississippi. Both records were stunning displays of power pop par excellence and now—after yet another lengthy wait—comes The Alternative to Love.
off like an even more ‘60s-inspired version of Matthew Sweet (with just
as much excessive vocal overdubbing—there’s a veritable choir of
Benson’s all over the place), Benson hits all the right notes on Alternative.
Sure there’s an over-reliance on silly rhyming lyrics guaranteed to induce
cringes in some listeners, but as any power pop devotee can tell you it’s
all about the hooks—not the words—and Alternative’s
got plenty that will sink deep into your brain tissue. Particular highlights
are the bouncy McCartney-esque toast to aimlessness “What I’m Looking
For” and the sassy vitriol of “Spit it Out Now.”
Josh Rouse Nashville
represents a welcome return to form for Rouse after dabbling in some silly genre
experimentation on the period piece album 1972. Undoubtedly fueled by the collapse
of his marriage, Nashville presents a slick fusion of taut new wave,
alternative country and classic singer/songwriter fare. Bouncy electric guitar
lines redolent of old Smiths records are paired with luscious pedal steel work
throughout and Rouse’s reedy passionate voice has never been in finer
fettle. Song titles, such as “My Love Is Gone,” make it clear that
Rouse is safely back in melancholyville after the good times party of 1972,
and although the widening of his sound represented on that album is still present
here (from the bar house stomp of “Why Won’t You Tell Me What”
to the orchestral drama of “Streetlights”), this time Rouse isn’t
reaching—he’s simply painting his always excellent folk-pop songs
with a broader palette of colors.