The fraught waters of "world music" have dashed many a well-intentioned album upon the rocks of pandering contrivance and misguided condescension. But that's never been the case for Paul Simon. Over the course of his nearly six-decade career, Simon has never shied from appropriating ethnic textures and rhythms for songs and even albums (think Graceland), but underneath the unfamiliar sounds, those recordings have always retained their lucid core: pure pop gold that captures the attention even as it soothes the soul. On his latest effort, the bluegrass-tinged So Beautiful or So What (which he's calling "the best work I've done in twenty years"), Simon delivers forceful, precisely curated tracks that showcase the breadth of a brilliant career, the course of a lifetime not yet run.
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