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Standing Out in a Cast of Thousands

Robert Pollard remains one of the most prolific songwriters in rock.
Robert Pollard remains one of the most prolific songwriters in rock.

Shoehorning 16 songs into only 35 minutes, Robert Pollard's new solo album Normal Happiness serves as yet another exercise in brevity for the notoriously prolific songwriter. Pollard and his former band Guided by Voices have long been known for their primitive post-punk experimentation and British Invasion-era pop hooks, so it's only natural for him to mine that territory yet again.

Though "Supernatural Car Lover" functions as the album's most developed track, it's also an ideal Pollard case study: Just as the song unveils its summery power-pop melody, it seems to end as quickly as it began. If it feels mildly underdeveloped, that's likely a conscious move on Pollard's part to revisit an era when pop songs wasted little time. From the cleanly energetic, guitar-driven vamps to his laconic lyrics, Pollard doesn't waste a note, flexing his Elvis Costello-esque swagger with apparent ease as he sings, "Your game, you choose / God gave you the freedom to move / But it occurs to me that you might be lying about that, too."

Pollard's endless prolificacy can be frustrating: Technically his ninth solo album, Normal Happiness at times plays out like a sketchpad of songs. And while some, like "Supernatural Car Lover," sound fully focused, others are unrealized nuggets in need of some nurturing. In both cases, there's an innate immediacy that makes them a compelling snapshot of a frustrating but endlessly rewarding genius.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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