New Music Tuesday: Ben Folds & Nick Hornby

Sometimes, you listen to music because it’s musical. You feel like being moved by a melody or having some hard guitar or bass riff punish your ears in a fit of unrequited energy. Whatever. Music definitely plays the role of aural delectable.

But for many of us, music is also about the words—every syllable carefully chosen and arranged in a way that either best fits the tune or best fits the songwriter’s philosophies. We take a lot of meaning out of songs that say something worthwhile, and I’m guessing several people’s favorite artists are those who not only rock out, but speak out, too.

Ben Folds is typically one of those musicians who manages both words and melodies with an ability unparalleled by hardly anybody in the industry. But on his new album, “Lonely Avenue,” he didn’t write a single lyric. Nick Hornby, renowned author of books like “High Fidelity,” “About a Girl,” and “Fever Pitch,” took care of that aspect of this particular album’s tracks.

How do a great author and a great pianist come together for a project like this? Well, Folds is a fan of Hornby’s work and he came across an essay in one of his books called “31 Songs” in which Hornby praises the lyrics in Folds’s “Smoke.” Mutual admiration turned into a pretty incredible musical experiment that any fan of Ben Folds is going to absolutely adore.

Because Hornby is a writer of fiction, most of the tracks have a very narrative quality about them, and that added to Ben Folds’s gorgeous and intricate melodies makes for some very memorable music. “Picture Window” is my predetermined hit of the record, but tracks like “Claire’s Ninth” and “From Above” are also spectacular work.

We’re looking at a seriously unique project here that takes two people at the apex of their craft and puts them to work in a sort of symbiotic diamond. It’s poetry, it’s music, and it’s fantastic. Whether you listen to music for the tune or the words, you’re going to get more than your money’s worth on this one.

Check out a preview of the album here:

About the Author

Joel Brigham writes about stuff. It’s pretty much all he cares about. Stuff like music and more music. But he mostly cares about music. And also music.

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