Since Resigned, he has scored two Paul Thomas Anderson films (Hard Eight and Boogie Nights), married Aimee Mann (whose songs form the inspiration for Anderson's newest film, Magnolia). MP4: Days Since a Lost Time Accident, his fourth album and first for Epic, finds him in much better straits. Everything that Penn has done well over the course of his first three releases is distilled and channeled into the best album of his career and arguably what may be considered one of the finest of the year.
MP4 explodes with the anthemic "Lucky One," a self-described nursery rhyme for the millennium, whose Elvis Costello-like wordplay and quirky pop rhythms are amplifications of all the qualities that have distinguished Penn's albums from the beginning. After setting the bar, Penn continues hitting the same high level throughout MP4, from the weary "Beautiful" to the Rubber Soul revue of "Don't Let Me Go" and the moodily captivating closer "Bucket Brigade." Penn's penchant for Beatlesque mannerisms results in a balance between Lennon's darkness and McCartney's lightness ("Footdown," "Perfect Candidate"). With MP4, Penn has further cemented his reputation as a postmodern pop genius and, in doing so, made a whole lot of people look foolish for having ignored his last two brilliant contributions. -- Brian Baker