There are some artists working today that can be considered to be ‘musician’s musicians’, and among the short but eclectic list sits none other than Ben Folds. Over his career, Ben has released multiple bodies of work that have crossed genres, featured on major motion pictures, and have been played by symphony orchestras. Despite this great body of work, it has been quite a few years since his last truly solo release.
Opener But Wait, There’s More gains momentum as it goes, electric piano painting an atmospheric picture before plucky drums and bass enter. Ben’s trademark harmonies are present, the barbershop quartet of one making themselves known as the full instrumental pallet begins. It’s the bright and energetic brass that really sticks out – a precursor to more of these embellishments throughout the track list. Clouds With Ellipses features British singer-songwriter dodie, who’s harmonies float heavenly across the entire song, both following the lyrics and humming melodies. Its followup Exhausting Lover is a complete juxtaposition, Ben telling the story of a man fed up with cheating on his girlfriend with a very sexually adventurous woman. Fictitious or not, the instrumental is reminiscent of his earlier work, complete with peppy piano playing and a singalong chorus.
Fragile is the first in a stretch of ballads, and is the most conventual. The soft drum machine loop that complements the waltz piano and light string arrangement follow Ben’s mournful lyrics about the breakdown of a relationship. Kristine From The 7th Grade has a filmic quality, beginning almost like a classical piece and adapting from the previous song, while Back To Anonymous has a country twang in the swung drum beat and subtle slide guitar. The harmonica solo towards the end, although fleeting, completes the package. Paddleboat Breakup marches along, chronicling exactly what the song title suggests, and the title track is a theatrical mid-tempo, piano led song that sums up the themes of the album perfectly. The final track, Moments featuring Tall Heights, ends the album on a high. The duo add a layer to Ben’s performance that elevate it beyond most others on the record, and the string solo that closes the track leave a bittersweet feeling on the listener.
The years may have gone by, but Ben Fold’s has proven with the album that he’s still got it. Over the ten tracks, Ben has managed to dip into multiple different styles and genres, complementing each with his unique voice and lyricism, as well as his excellent keys playing. Both features have also been perfectly chosen and implemented to enhance the tracks they are on. Its only a shame that there isn’t more to be enjoyed.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.