2. You To Thank
7. Give Judy My Notice
9. Sentimental Guy
11. Prison Food
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I was not a fan of Ben Folds Five.
I feel that in the scene today I am up against the wall, staring into the faces of a firing squad, and those nine words are equivalent to the word "fire". I don't know what it is, but I could never seem to get into the band. I would always hear their songs on the radio, and they always seemed boring and overdone to me.
Flash forward two years to 2001 and the release of Ben Folds' first solo album Rockin the Suburbs. I remember seeing it in the record store and cringing. Needless to say I never picked it up. Now, four years later, I'm sitting here at my desk kicking myself for not paying the 9.99 out of my pocket for that album. Because after listening to Songs For Silverman, I now wish I was Ben Folds. He writes the songs I wish I could write.
No matter the subject matter of the songs, the effect is always a calming and upbeat one. Folds' voice interplays with his piano in ways that bring to mind a swirling of notes and melodies. Even on the track "Late", a song dedicated in remembrance to Folds' good friend Elliot Smith, you can't help but feel happy and content even as he sings "the songs you wrote got me through alot, just want to tell you that, but it's too late". Folds' side-steps full on sadness in this tune and instead sings of lost camraderie. Folds' optimistic spin on things is refreshing in the today's scene where half the band names contain some derivation of the words "blood" or "die".
Folds' covers many more genres in Songs For Silverman then he ever did in Ben Folds Five or on his first solo album. "You To Thank" bursts out in a friendly jazz direction while "Give Judy My Notice" seems to take on an almost country feel. Yet throughout it all, Folds' piano tells the tale, never straying too far from the path his sturdy voice has set.
There isn't too much to say negatively about Songs For Silverman which is really saying something. However it surely isn't for everyone. Some may find Folds' brand of pop just a little too sweet. Admittedly at times I found myself hoping for a song with a somber tone to it, one that would drop me from my high and let me know that I was, in fact, still in reality. Folds' album transports it's listener to a shiny, happy place where no matter the circumstances, everything will be ok. It's a nice thought, and a beautiful escape, but it feels a little too much like a fantasy.
Ben Folds is a master of his craft, creating songs of such beauty and character that you can't help but smile. Songs of Silverman is a pop-music "grab bag" of sorts, that truly defies duplication.
- Dan Wotherspoon