The Hanged Man

In the world of generic pop records, Ted Leo’s new 14-song solo album, The Hanged Man, is a glass of fresh water. But that’s Leo in general; unabashed and creating worlds to experience. His music is a fusion of punk rapidity, distorted textures and screechy leads, with Leo’s clear tone that can move from soft pop to a sonic attack in a second. “Can’t Go Back” feels instantly classic, almost with the shape of a show tune, and it’s quickly followed by “The Future (Is Learning To …),” a punk-pop mover in line with his previous work with backing band The Pharmacists. “William Weld in the 21st Century,” on the other hand, is a lazy folk-rocker in which Leo’s honeyed voice sings a song of politics in America. This is the kind of spastic shape-shifting few can pull off, the kind of artistry shared by greats like Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe. Leo’s spent nearly three decades making music, and the versatility and precision of this record shows it.