Ben Lee The Rebirth of Venus

Ben Lee is a hard guy to take; his in-your-face earnestness is truly off-putting. For instance, the Aussie singer-songwriter titled his new album The Rebirth of Venus because he's "trying to find a balance between my own masculine and feminine nature," going so far as to replace the Roman goddess inside the clamshell on the album's cover. But if you can get past Lee's more hokey qualities you'll discover he's actually a very talented songwriter. He scored himself a minor hit in North America a few years back with "Catch My Disease," and the songs on this record pick up where his last two albums left off, blending big campfire sing-along choruses with Lee's positivity laced lyrics. At times, like on "Boy with a Barbie" and "I Love Pop Music," the lyrics fall off the fence and into the realm of self-parody. But if you let down your cynical guard, other tracks like "What's So Bad (About Feeling Good)" will leave you wearing a sheepish grin for the rest of the day. (New West)