Producer and multi-instrumentalist Jim O'Rourke began making experimental music at a young age, but a funny thing happened years after he rose to international prominence: He started to write songs. Coming from an improvisational background, O'Rourke was best known as the yin to David Grubbs' yang in Gastr del Sol. But as Grubbs gradually made the transition from young punk to weirdo, O'Rourke began to shift from weirdo to straight man, retaining his interest in pushing the boundaries of composition but also suddenly indicating an appreciation for music with a melody. Granted, though the new Eureka may be a pop album in the best sense, it's still a weird pop album: In fact, its lush sounds might be his biggest experiment yet, a radical statement from a man rebelling against what's expected of him. Recalling John Fahey, Nick Drake, Scott Walker, and even Pink Floyd—among any number of avant-pop benchmarks—and approximating the arrangements of Van Dyke Parks and Burt Bacharach (whose "Something Big" O'Rourke covers), Eureka is a far cry from his efforts revolving around noise, improv, and tape-splicing. He even sings on several tracks. So is it cynical, then, to say that after dozens of experimental projects, this somewhat mundane exercise is his best album? Nah. But, bolstered by some of Chicago's most talented scenesters, O'Rourke has proven with this audio tapestry that even the most outré and unpredictable performers might have pretty pop albums lurking within them.

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