On his second release in 18 months, the Boss continues turning out the kind of lush, mid-tempo rock songs he recorded on 2007's Magic.
That's a contrast to the somber and largely acoustic musical approach Springsteen adopted earlier this decade on The Rising and Devils and Dust. The more recent style is better suited to the ruggedly reflective working-class ethic that's long defined Springsteen's sound.
Despite the relative consistency of his work over a recording career that's spanned 37 years, Springsteen has been adept at changing with the musical times. The shadow of '70s folk-rock spreads across his earliest work. His pop phase coincided with the rise of '80s New Wave. And in 2009, characteristics of indie rock color Working on a Dream.
You can hear it in the orchestral melodrama of "Outlaw Pete." You can feel it in the dreamy, Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies that shape "This Life."
"Queen of the Supermarket" is the album's standout. The lighthearted title belies the song's serious emotion. It's about loneliness overcome by the warmth of a grocery clerk: "Though a company cap covers her hair, nothing can hide the beauty waiting there."
Working on a Dream amplifies the uncommon moods of common moments and stands as the best Springsteen album this decade.