Song 72: Ben Kweller: “Penny on the Train Track” (2006)

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I first heard Ben Kweller in the midst of insomnia. The Internet tells me the date was February 28, 2002. I turned on the TV and Last Call With Carson Daly was on, and there was a kid sitting at a piano, playing a Ben Folds-like song. A few minutes later, he was fronting a band that sounded like Weezer. Both songs, “In Other Words” and “Wasted & Ready,” were like songs the Beatles never got around to writing. I instantly liked him.

Kweller’s record Sha Sha stayed in my rotation for the next few years, and it’s been fun seeing what he’s up to. His self-titled album has some great songs on it, but “Penny on the Train Track” is my favorite. Kweller played all the instruments on this record, which makes songs like this really stand out: there’s the staccato piano, the distorted guitar, the warm bed of the organ. This one is just propulsive, with a melody that reaches fist-pumping levels in the chorus. I think it’s one of the best things he’s done.

I’m going to assume that’s Kweller’s grandmother in the video below, with Kweller himself behind the camera (and at the end, telling her how “rad” it was). Ridiculous.

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