Gawky Geek Turns More Mundane But Lets His Chaos Light Up Your Living Room


A 22-year-old cross between a Muppet and a Beach Boy whose amped-up antifolk and homely mannerisms make a case for gawky, free-spirited chic, Ben Keller is the dude all the dorks want to be. 2002’s Sha-Sha was a mosaic of tuneful alt-country and sunny indie rock, peppered with idiosyncratic musings name-checking asteroids, slackerism, sex, and spaghetti. On On My Way, his attempt at a stronger identity leads to less variation: Beatles-style tunes crank out with steady snares, blaring power riffs, and languid keyboard interjections, but feel mundane.

Still, he shines when he’s askew. In the slightly deranged acoustic title track, Kweller’s sweet loafing voice tells Ma about newfound affinities for burglary, murder by karate, and friendship. In “My Apartment,” an ode to his tiny NYC abode, guitars burst like sunbeams through windows to illuminate this soft, safe place, but the jaunty hoopla and piano-bar skronk of “Hospital Bed” leave the air shaken and stirred. When Kweller flips up his collar in the badass street prowl “Ann Disaster” and sniffs, “You want a piece of me?” the dork’s got sass to spare.