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In a perfect world, 18-year-old indie Wunderkind Ben Lee would grow up, mature, and maybe write his own “Garden Party.” Unfortunately, from the evidence of his second solo album, the singer/songwriter he’s determined to emulate isn’t Rick Nelson but Gordon Lightfoot. No “Sundown” here, though: Lee instead goes for the grail by making the autobiographical gripe “Career Choice” seem as long as “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” although it’s a full two minutes shorter. The pop gift that Lee fans discerned in his work with the now-defunct Noise Addict has largely flown; in its place are deadly earnest acoustic strummings. Their drabness is broken only by lyrics in which the artist compares the tears of a girlfriend to the rain he imagines falling on Ketchum, Idaho, the site of Ernest Hemingway’s suicide, and one about his heart being eternal and his soul soaring through the sky. In other words, their drabness is hardly broken. Producer Brad Wood does his best to lift the record above monotony, dropping in a string section here, a piano there—even drums occasionally!—but it still takes a lot of caffeine to sit through this coffee-house exercise. Lee complains in “Household Name” about teen-oriented sitcoms solving problems in half-hour increments, but it’s hard to see much difference between Growing Pains and his own feel-good thumbsuckers. Yeah, this is on the Beastie Boys’ label, but have they actually listened to it?

—Rickey Wright