For his part, the ever-steady Randy Newman is no stranger to the wisdoms gained in growing older. On his most recent release, Harps and Angels, Newman's political satire is filtered through the narration of a plaintive observer, a practice that Newman fans are accustomed to, and something he feels he's improved upon over his 30-plus years as a songwriter and composer.

"I think they're the best two records I ever made," notes Newman of his last two albums. "I'm gratified that at the age I am I can still write. That's not the norm in this business. Most people do their best work at 20 or 30."

Harps and Angels shifts between rare instances of autobiography and scathing domestic and foreign policy tirades, most notably on the track "A Few Words in Defense of Our Country," which contemplates the world's collective view of the United States crumbling as a world leader.

"Maybe 'A Few Words' will have a life just because it's funny," says Newman. "But I wouldn't count on having another administration to which it will apply. But what if McCain wins? He's more like Bush than I thought."

And while his irony-laced, character-driven opuses take center stage on a majority of his albums ("I Love LA," "Short People," "Political Science"), it's the searching in Newman's voice that keeps his brigade of loyal listeners satiated.

"Harps and Angels could be me, if I believed in anything. I did find it more interesting to make up these characters and let the audience hear what they had to say, and let the audience realize that they know more about the [character] than the [character] knows themselves."

Newman's forays into film score work have ushered in a new kind of family-friendly notoriety over the last two decades. But in terms of typical Newman cynicism, the chances of increasing his small worldwide following (which he estimates at around 200,000) are minimal, and in lieu of a major focus shift, he's okay with that at this point in his career.

"I reach hundreds of millions of people with the movies, but for myself it's not gonna happen. I wouldn't change my writing to try and do it. Maybe if I did an album of love songs and they were good, I'd pick up another 12,000."