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Exclusive First Listen: Brendan Benson

A lot of people had never heard of Brendan Benson before he formed The Raconteurs in 2005 with guitarist Jack White of The White Stripes. At the time, the band was (and, too often, continues to be) pitched as White's personal side project. But Benson had a solid solo career before The Raconteurs, and anyone familiar with his music will confirm that he's responsible for much of that band's hyper-infectious power-pop sound. You can hear as much on Benson's latest solo album, My Old, Familiar Friend, available here in its entirety two weeks before its official release.

Benson is a meticulous songwriter — and, as with his three previous solo releases, My Old, Familiar Friend is a work of carefully orchestrated precision. The songs are tightly wound, with ridiculously catchy hooks, perfectly placed handclaps and harmonies and sweet, buoyant melodies.

My Old, Familiar Friend also holds a few surprises. A track like "Garbage Day" can open with Motown-inspired strings, morph into a neo-psychedelic run reminiscent of The Beatles, then head back to Motown. "Don't Wanna Talk" opens with the rumbling drums of Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll" before it suddenly turns into a sunny pop romp. The songs tread familiar territory — broken hearts and troubled relationships — but mix the dark imagery with a wink and touch of wit.

My Old, Familiar Friend will be released on Aug. 18.

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Robin Hilton is a producer and co-host of the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.
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