For Fans Of
Being the first Ben Folds Five studio album to be released in over 10 years, ‘The Sound of the Life of the Mind‘ has a lot of hype to live up to. It follows a successful solo career from Folds after the group’s disbandment in 2000, and fans who have been eagerly anticipating the release can breathe a collective sigh of relief, because this album is good. Really good.
Opening with the quirky and slightly neurotic ‘Erase Me‘, if you find yourself fretting that this will be the overriding tone for the rest of the album, don’t worry. There’s still plenty of the raucous piano rock and emotionally charged pop that made you fall in love with this band in the 90s.
Folds demonstrates his outstanding storytelling ability on ‘Michael Praytor, Five Years Later‘, and on the title track, an appropriately cinematic musical backdrop accompanies lyrics from English author Nick Hornby.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Brian Eno had joined the band for the intro to ‘Sky High‘, an ambient theme that continues throughout the track. Extra production elements like this transform ‘The Sound of the Life of the Mind‘ from a straightforward Ben Folds Five record into a work of genuine artistic merit.
‘On Being Frank‘, as well as exemplifying the power of the piano rock ballad, features a delicate and intricately arranged string section. Folds has a convincing command of both rock and jazz tonalities, and constant changes of pace keep this album from becoming repetitive.
The frenetic lead single ‘Do It Anyway‘ gives everyone a chance to show off their chops, with dizzying bass guitar fills and frankly alarming piano flourishes, a complete contrast to the summery bossa nova of ‘Hold That Thought‘.
Every track on this album is thoroughly polished and considered. Whether the songs are inspired by Folds‘ own experiences or presented vicariously through the happenings of others, they possess an emotional awareness and intensity that renders them immediately identifiable by the listener.
The best thing about ‘The Sound of the Life of the Mind’ is that it never gets boring. By sticking to a simple instrumentation, the trio are able to explore every facet of their sound in great depth, and Folds’ lyrics cover the emotional gamut. This new set of songs has the potential to become classic Ben Folds Five material with solid production to back it up.
1. Erase Me
2. Michael Praytor, Five Years Later
3. Sky High
4. The Sound of the Life of the Mind
5. On Being Frank
6. Draw a Crowd
7. Do It Anyway
8. Hold That Thought
9. Away When You Were Here
10. Thank You for Breaking My Heart