Thursday, October 9, 2008

Way to normal: The Music

"Ben Folds new album "Way to Normal" is out. I just got my copy yesterday. Two words. Old school.

It came in a big, pinkish-burgundy fabric-covered box embossed with gold lettering. It had 60's "high quality boxed set" feel to it. The box held the CD, the DVD, a CD of extra improv tracks, and the album. I'm not being redundant here. An actual double vynyl album was included in the bundle.

Not only is the presentation of the album old-school, but many of the songs are a real throwback to the irreverent, fuzzy-bass, f-bomb laced rocking out sound of Ben Folds Five. Ben's last two albums, solo efforts, have been pretty mellow. Beautiful, yes, but it seemed that marriage and children and toned him down somewhat.

Well, Ben's gotten divorced, which you can read between the lines in many of the songs, and it's apparently been liberating for his music. While the feel of the album is old-school, He's certainly matured as a songwriter, and has taken the route where his lyrics aren't nearly as tight or as structured as they used to be. At times, he doesn't even attempt to rhyme. His arrangements are also much more elaborate and complex, and many of the songs wouldn't work for radio play.

Everyone will be focusing on the single "You Don't Know Me," which features the considerable vocal talents of Regina Spektor. It's a great song, don't get me wrong, and Spektor's amazing on the track.

But my vote for best pop song on the album is "Brainwascht" (pronounced brainwashed). It's a response to someone who wrote a song talking trash about Ben. It's brilliant, and shows that yes, Ben still knows how to write a pop song. Personally, I'm impressed that he's turned "online rhyming dictionary" into an insult.

Even without all the extra bits, the album is worth listening to, especially if you are a fan of old school Ben Folds.

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