Get local news delivered straight to your phone
Support City Paper!
Ben Kweller’s Sha Sha is the kind of no-pretense pop-rock record that weary critics savor, but the New York-based singer/guitarist’s profile has probably risen because his tunes have broad appeal. Kweller’s sweet ’70s-style harmonies, psych-pop accents, arena-rock crunch, and folky melodies are inoffensive without sounding as if they were tested on a focus group beforehand. That lack of calculation likely stems from the fact that Kweller—still in his very early 20s—has been through the major-label mill already and decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. He was the frontman for Radish, a teenage alt-rock trio that released one disc on Mercury in the mid-’90s and broke up before the end of the decade. After bagging his first attempt at stardom, Kweller quietly transformed himself into a DIY bedroom songwriter. (A lesser talent might’ve kept plugging away, hoping that the Radish brand name would develop some value.) He soon landed on ATO Records, a comfy indie label part-owned by Dave Matthews. Perhaps because of Kweller’s decision to hole up and start over, every track on Sha Sha comes across like a careful dollop of personal musical truth. But instead of turning cranky or confessional, he uses hopeful piano riffs and Weezerlike guitar oomph to keep things peppy. And there’s not a smarmy or cynical song in the bunch. Unlike Rivers Cuomo, Kweller can deliver a slightly deadpan melody without sounding too smart for the song. Watch him grow up right before your eyes with My Morning Jacket and Adam Green at 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $10. (202) 393-0930. (Joe Warminsky)