Album: Paul Simon, So Beautiful or So What (Concord / Universal)

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The Independent Culture

Describing the music Paul Simon makes these days as "pop" is like calling the Bible a bestseller – true but not quite fit for the purpose.

Eleven solo albums in just under 40 years tells its own story: here is a man who would sooner lose his place at popular culture's top table than put out anything under-considered or rash.

So Beautiful or So What is – the unseasonal inclusion of the opening "Getting Ready for Christmas" aside – perfect: as soft as a sigh, as easy as breathing, as wise as it is questioning. The worldy influence remains but never overwhelms and the album contains at least half a dozen songs that are as simple and profound as anything Simon has ever written.

The title track sums things up: The 70-this-year songwriter's message? "Life is what you make of it/ So beautiful or so what". Guess which category this falls into.