Brendan Benson weaves rocky/poppy songs that reek of casualness but are in fact closely wrought. Early brilliance faded somewhat, and recent years have seen him starring in a different role, alongside Jack White in The Raconteurs. Now, after an absence of seven years, “Dear Life” is a return to his pithy solo best, full of sharp wordplay and seemingly simple songs. A mix of his classic guitar-centred indie songs, and more chunky offerings propped up by Raconteurs-style boom, Benson’s traditional cynicism is often swept aside by the joys of fatherhood, as on the jangly “Good To Be Alive” and the horn-dappled, harmony-sizzling “Baby’s Eyes.” “Dear Life” is a troubadour-style story of dejected souls. Overall the album is a welcome confection in lockdown times, sweet song-making imaginatively dressed.