For all of his studied recalcitrance-he did dub himself the Little Bastard, after all-John Mellencamp is at heart an optimist whose songwriting yearns for a better world. That hopeful sentiment kicks off his 25th album, "No Better Than This," as "Save Some Time to Dream" concludes that "your dream might save us all" amid a three-chord guitar pattern and gentle groove. Mellencamp works with a rustic sound that manipulates his vocals in a manner that is both lo-fi and immediate. "Try to keep your mind open," Mellencamp sings, "And accept your mistakes/Save some time for living/And always question your faith." Beyond encapsulating Mellencamp's own philosophy, the song also sets the tone for "No Better Than This," a sojourn into rootsy Americana produced by T Bone Burnett.