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Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (Sour Mash) 

As the more-thoughtful Oasis brother, Noel Gallagher's best moments tended to turn up on hit singles as well as around the band's fringes, like B-sides and the Noel-sung MTV Unplugged. Boastful and arrogant, Oasis was gunning for the highest peaks, and that often involved a certain sound and swagger that didn't incorporate the best of Noel's skills.

Neither, exactly, does this first solo album.

While Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds stacks up well against the albums from Oasis' declining years, it's weighted with a different set of expectations. Yet stripped of any competition for the album's creative direction, Noel's songwriting is too often flat and simplistic—"If I had the time, I'd stop the world and make you mine, and every day would stay the same with you," he sings on "If I Had a Gun."

The album's best songs—like "AKA ... Broken Arrow" and "Stop the Clocks"—bring back the sound of that Brit-pop grandeur. The songs are well-crafted and include some refreshing instrumental flourishes—horn breaks on "Dream On" and "The Death of You And Me," more keyboards and strings, and even some subtle but effective banjo and pedal steel.

The post-Oasis solo albums reveal just how well-balanced the Gallagher brothers' strengths were. And it's no surprise that what Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds really needs is a little of Liam's bombastic energy.

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