Jay Bennett's fourth solo effort, The Magnificent Defeat, is as dizzying and dazzling as anything he and his former bandmates put together, and it's nowhere near as mopey. For one thing, Bennett's records in general -- and this one in particular -- don't sound like his record collection. They sound like he wrote songs, made noise -- and music -- and had a blast doing it. With a bit of help from longtime collaborator Edward Burch, and co-producer and multi-instrumentalist David Vandervelde, The Magnificent Defeat is one strange, quirky, and labyrinthine journey filled with the quark weirdness of growing up ("5th Grade"), broken love songs (the rollicking country-rock of "Wide Open"), and the gorgeously and perversely orchestrated tale of loss and studied rebuttal ("The Palace at 4 A.M."). This latter track has an obvious inspiration: the Elvis Costello of King of America. It's not just the tune or its arrangements, but Bennett even reaches for those same notes with his own little voice.