Sunday, October 5, 2008

What Say Ye? Ben Folds Open Thread

Okay, so I got no pony in this race, but there seems to be a bit of a debate about the new Ben Folds album, Way to Normal. Lets start with the very positive Paste review which provides this heavy duty artistic comparison.

[T]hese 12 songs are more of an anthropological study of aberrant human behavior, idiosyncratic news stories and bizarre chapters of the musician’s own autobiography, all observed with the same unstinting absurdist eye as J.D. Salinger when he penned Nine Stories more than 50 years ago.

Piling on, PopMatters suggests that Folds “is writing and performing music as if he has something to prove again” and that he “has given us something to talk about again with an album that works, front to back, on both musical and lyrical levels.”

But the discussion out there isn’t all positive. Spin weighs in noting that “Folds is incapable of mediocrity, but Way to Normal comes way too close.” And David over at IndieMuse goes even further by suggesting that Folds’ new album is “not worth your time.” And while he hypothesizes that one reason might be that Folds is old (hey! says this 44-year old) he also notes that Folds can still write a great pop song. As evidence, he highlights “You Don’t Know Me” from the new album which features Regina Spektor—a tune Lisa B. has been displaying in her sidebar for a while, although I don’t know if that has to do with Folds, Spektor or both.

Still there is no doubting that Folds can write a great pop tune. Below I give you the 1999 hit “Army” which makes me smile (and pause) every time I hear it and a live version of “Smoke” which is based on a wonderful conceit. But hey, as I said at the start, no pony in this race: what say ye?



Lisa B. said...

Look at you, gathering the critical spectrum. I love BF, am enjoying the new recording. I like the variety of sounds on it--it doesn't sound just the same as all his recordings. That said, at this point if someone asked me where it fits, quality-wise, with his other recordings, I would say that Songs for Silverman, the previous recording, was sublime and holds up beautifully--and I don't know if this new recording has anything lyrically on that. But I'm still listening to it. I think he has a great idiosyncratic oeuvre and is always worth more than one listen.

Lisa B. said...

I agree, by the way, with the Paste review--I think that Folds is a brilliant monologist, and only some of the monologues are in his own voice (whatever that might be). And "Army" is a great song, as is "Not the Same"--give that a listen!

Nelson said...

I've only listened to the new Folds album once so far, but I already like it. The song with Regina Spektor and "Bitch Went Nuts" being my early favorites.

Nice stuff going on over here. I've added you to my blog roll.

CPS said...

Lisa B--might have to leave the Folds to you. I just haven't been motivated, but I will keep Silverman in mind.

Nelson--thanks, been enjoying reading your blog for a while via Payton. Couple discs I picked up recently had much to do with your write-ups. And I am just getting caught up with all going on over SMM which is a great idea.

Nelson said...

Yeah... SMM can make your head spin a bit. There's a lot over there to work through. It is fun trying to come up with things to fit the theme each week, though.

Out of curiosity... which discs did you pick up?

CPS said...

I have been working back through the Jayhawks (embarrassing how out of touch I have been with them) and chose your rec on essential albums there--imagine there is a post coming on all of that looking forward to Ready for the Flood. And both you and Payton have been talking about Kasey Chambers and so decided to go back to Barricades before dipping into anything else. Oh, and Carrie Rodriguez, who I am ambivalent about as you probably saw.

Bottom line is that life has been busy (kids, work, etc.) and I am in real catch-up mode.