“The Sound of the Life of the Mind”

By Ben Folds Five

It has been thirteen years since the release of Ben Folds Five’s last studio album, 1999′s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. In that time, a Five-less Ben Folds released three solo albums and launched himself a pretty successful singer/songwriter career. In 2011, Folds reunited with bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee to record three songs for Fold’s compilation album, The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. After that, the trio got to work recording 2012′s The Sound of the Life of the Mind, which was recorded over a period of six weeks, from January to February.

The album contains many of Fold’s signature musical components: bouncy piano jangles, the occasional raw ballad, and straightforward, often humorous lyrics. Folds is something of an acquired taste, but he undeniably puts a unique spin on adult contemporary. One of the album’s standouts is “Erase Me,” the first song on the ten track album. The song has something of a cabaret vibe to it, containing several tempo changes, more than a few off-notes, and scathing lyrics from a lover scorned. “Erase me, what the fuck is this? You’re crazy… I’m sure you can never escape me.” Always brutally honest, Fold’s pragmatic lyrics are part of what makes his music so interesting and accessible. Another lyrical gem can be found on the track “Draw A Crowd,” where Folds advises listeners, “If you’re feeling small, and you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on a wall.”

Perhaps the best song on the album is its first single, “Do It Anyway”. The track’s frantic tempo, rambunctious piano stylings, and Fold’s desperate shouts create the album’s hectic climax. The listener is captivated as Folds implores us all to follow our dreams regardless of our doubts.

In 2008, Folds teamed up with English author Nick Hornby to create the album Lonely Avenue; Hornby wrote the lyrics, and Folds wrote the music. The title track of Ben Folds Five’s latest, “The Sound of the Life of the Mind,” is actually a song left over from the Lonely Avenue‘s recording sessions. In it, Fold’s pulsing piano melodies set the tone as Hornby’s lyrics pay tribute to folk heroes like Joan of Arc, JFK, and Rosa Parks.

Ben Folds Five began their tour with the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival this past June. They have been on ever since, and their tour extends well into 2013.

By Sara Selevitch

If you liked this, check out:
“The Carpenter” by The Avett Brothers
“Sugaring Season” by Beth Orton

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