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Ben Folds & Nick Hornby

Lonely Avenue (Nonesuch)

Nov. 15, 2010
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Though he has yet to achieve Rivers Cuomo-level silliness, Ben Folds seems to garner more attention for the peculiarities of his releases than for the music contained therein. Producing William Shatner’s vanity album, covering Dr. Dre or having college a cappella groups record your songs may grab headlines, but they reek of gimmickry.

Getting British author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) to write your lyrics is a gimmick too, albeit one with potential. There are a few glimmers of hope musically as well (a weird Moog line here, a sparkly harmony there), but these elements quickly recede into the kind of soft-focus piano pop that is Folds’ trademark and boredom sets in.

It would have been adventurous to have Hornby record his words himself, especially since Folds seems to have only two vocal modes (achy and the insufferable tone of someone who thinks they’re really clever), but who’s delivering the lines becomes irrelevant when only about half of the compositions live up to Hornby’s talent as a writer. At a low enough volume it may work as background music, but if you’re looking for anything more, look elsewhere.


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