Lapalco is the kind of album you accidentally trip over. You stumble slightly, your eyes sweeping the ground as your body tries to regain balance. And there, while faltering, you see a crumpled $100 bill in the gutter, and it suddenly becomes your lucky day. The music has nothing to do with the kind of day you were having, but that's the kind of artist Brendan Benson is. He makes everything better no matter what everything is, if only for the time it takes to play ten of his songs.
The music is pop. It's been done before, but rarely better, and it's the familiarity that first draws you in. Suddenly you realize that the melodies are gorgeous, the lyrics funny and sad. The songs have a Gulf Coast tan and smile with audible creases in their corners. Lapalco came out in 2002 with little press or recognition, the follow-up to One Mississippi, another practically perfect record that received even less press or recognition. One Mississippi has slowly gained stature, passed from PC to PC among those content to see it on every critic's "Unknown Classics" list in twenty years. But now we find Brendan Benson on tour with Badly Drawn Boy this month and Keane next month -- two British acts with ripe, pop-loving fan bases. So maybe Benson is not destined for cult status after all. Perhaps his fate lies where it should -- blasted from car stereos down every clichéd coastal highway, arm-in-arm with drivers smoking light cigarettes and passengers smacking wads of sugary gum.