Ever go to a show to see a favorite band, and they decide to torture you with a new album you haven’t heard (and one that ain’t that great?)
I had the exact opposite experience this past Sunday.
We went to see Ben Folds at the Paramount; I was a huge Ben Folds Five fan back in the day. Its always a cliche to say “I love the first two albums, but . . ..” For many, that was too true with BFF. Those first two albums were masterpieces, each a tour de force of songwriting; I still get songs like Philosophy and Best Imitation of Myself and Fair and Brick stuck in my head all the time (Ben Folds Five and Whatever and Ever Amen).
Lots of the later works are very good and interesting and innovative, challenging pieces — but they might have been were missing what a little of what you fell in love with in the first place.
Regardless, Folds’ work has always been boundary pushing and filled with clever lyrics and lovely melodies. His most recent work with yMusic — a NYC 7-piece classical chamber music ensemble that does lovely collaborations — is a brilliant return to form of his earlier pop music genius.
Themes of loss and aging and missed opportunities inform songs like “I’m not the man”
There could be fewer days ahead than gone,
And all I’ve spent are long since on my way
To learn that nothing comes for free,
But I’m not the man…
I’m not the man… I used to be.
The album reaches its pop crescendo with the earworm “Phone in a pool” (below). It is an utterly infectious, familiar yet surprising pop song with the standard Ben Folds knowing too clever lyrics, and I just can’t stop playing it.
I can’t tell what you’re saying when you yell at the same time
You could be telling me the story of your life
Is my malfunction so surprising cause I always seem so stable and bright?
Ain’t it always the quiet types?
And I’ll be back on your sofa in a puddle in a couple of weeks…
Follow along with the melody below — its a perfect pop song. yMusic wonderfully complements the vocals and piano. They also do a great job complementing the song Capable Of Anything (below).
Some smart director should find a way to use these moody, very cinegraphic songs for a film soundtrack.
Ben Folds – Phone In A Pool
Long Way To Go
Ben Folds – Capable of Anything [acoustic with yMusic]
Click thru for live links to every song on the set list
Ben Folds, ‘So There’ (NPR)
Ben Folds: So There Review (Paste)
Ben Folds Talks New Orchestral LP (Billboard)
Ben Folds So There (drownedinsound)
Ben Folds Teams With yMusic for ‘Phone in a Pool’ (Speakeasy)