Picks and Pans Main: Music

updated 05/02/2011 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/02/2011 01:00AM

Paul Simon

So Beautiful or So What |

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FOLK-POP

"You know life is what we make of it/ So beautiful or so what," muses Paul Simon on the reflective title track of his latest. Certainly, the 12-time Grammy winner has earned the respect to wax wise as he approaches turning 70 in October. And there is plenty of sage meditation on life-and "The Afterlife," as one song is explicitly titled-on Simon's first album since 2006's Surprise. Whether he's contemplating the vastness of "love" on three tunes whose titles start with that four-letter word or pondering "Questions for the Angels" ("If you shop for love in a bargain store/ And you don't get what you bargained for/ Can you get your money back?") on one harp-laced ballad, Simon takes you on a graceful, spiritual journey. Musically, he harks back to 1986's Graceland-one of his greatest triumphs-on world-beatish cuts such as the Indian-tinged "Dazzling Blue" and the African-textured "Rewrite." So beautiful indeed.

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