Ben Folds just released a new album, Lonely Avenue.
The thing that makes this album interesting, is that all of the lyrics were written by British novelist Nick Hornby. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to write music for someone else’s words. I mean, obviously people do it all the time, and I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to write music at all, even to your own words. But Ben Folds has always written his own lyrics, so it must have been a challenge.
So the lyrics are very story oriented, but Ben’s own style is very much storytelling anyway. So it probably wasn’t too much of a switch for him. That being said, having a literary writer definitely gives the songs a little something different. All in all, I thoroughly enjoy the album (thanks Anna for lending it to me!), and I like it better than the previous one (Way to Normal).
So, here are my 5 favorite songs on the CD, in reverse order:
5) Levi Johnston’s Blues – I’m willing to bet this is the #1 song in America about Levi Johnston (of Bristol Palin’s baby-daddy fame). Basically it’s just about how he was a regular 18 year old dude one minute, and the next minute was the focus of an entire presidential campaign (at least for a little while).
The lyric: I’m a f—–‘ redneck, I live to hang out with the boys / Play some hockey, do some fishin’ and kill some moose / I like to shoot the shit and do some chillin’ I guess / You f— with me and I’ll kick your ass*
*This entire chorus was taken wholesale from Levi’s MySpace page before it was sanitized by the political machine.
4) Claire’s Ninth – All Claire wants for her 9th birthday is for her divorced parents to get together and take her out for dinner. This song is flat out amazing. It somehow manages to capture both the sarcasm and embarrassment of being a pre-teen, and also the feelings of the parents: sort of a strange mix of regret over what happened and how it affects their daughter, but at the same time sort of oblivious to how they’re hurting her.
The lyric: Or what we were, you’re all that’s left / It used to be our birthday too
3) Belinda – This is a song about a singer who wrote a love song which became his biggest hit, the song he will be forever known for. The problem is, 40 years later, he’s not with the girl anymore and he’s forced to sing the song over and over, night after night. I wonder if this one rung especially true for Ben Folds, who’s written a love song or two over the course of his 4 marriages.
The lyric: There’s a lot of 40-somethings wouldn’t be in the world without it
2) Saskia Hamilton – The entire song is based on falling in love with the name of poet Saskia Hamilton. Seriously. The entire song is just about her name. Aside from being very catchy, the video is pretty awesome too. From what I understand, Ben Folds just contacted some dude who made cool youtube videos and asked him to make a video for the song. It turned out fantastic. The entire thing is filmed in the guy’s bedroom. This had me screaming, “Saskia Hamilton!” at odd times for at least a week.
The lyric: She’s got more assonance than she knows what to do with
1) From Above – The premise is that soul mates do exist, and we walk by ours every day without ever noticing. The song follows two such people through their lives. I liked this song immediately, but it wasn’t my favorite at first. However, after hearing a few times, the lyrics are so poignant, and the music fits them perfectly. How sad to think that each person has a perfect second half, and the vast majority of everyone will never even meet them.
The lyric: Maybe that’s how books get written / Maybe that’s why songs get sung / Maybe we owe the unlucky ones