How does Elvis Costello do it? In the past four years alone, pop's reigning renaissance man has released a killer rock album ("The Delivery Man"), an eloquent collaboration with New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint ("The River in Reverse"), and a live recording with a Dutch jazz orchestra ("My Flame Burns Blue").
Today Costello gives us "Momofuku," titled in tribute to the inventor of the Cup Noodle, and this collection goes down as easy and tasty as its namesake's ingenious snack. Costello and the Imposters recorded and mixed the whole project in a week, inspired by a fast, loose session he sang on for Jenny Lewis's forthcoming album. And Lewis returns the favor, supplying harmonies all over "Momofuku," which is frontloaded with the sort of whip-smart, rough-and-tumble pop songs the artist built his name on.
Brimming with hooks and guitars galore, the album - released two weeks ago on vinyl and in stores and online today - flirts with samba ("Harry Worth"), soft-shoe ("Mr. Feathers"), and jazzy blues ("Flutter & Wow"). There's a folksy ballad ("My Three Sons"), a sinuous rocker ("Stella Hurt"), and a petulant, lo-fi closer called "Go Away" that captures Costello at his most uncalculated and appealing. A few tracks sound like demos; "Drum & Bone" is a scrappy wisp. But Costello sings it like an excitable boy who has found a new box of toys. [Joan Anderman]
Elvis Costello opens for the Police at the Tweeter Center July 31.
Essential: "No Hiding Place"