When Ben Folds Five’s single “Brick” become a hit in the 90’s, I was taken in by the band. After years of piano lessons (and wanting to quit many times along the way but being unable to due to my parents having already invested money into the lessons), Ben Folds came along and made playing the piano cool. Maybe not to the masses, but to me.
I didn’t stick with the piano as I probably should have, but after seeking out their previous albums, I did move Ben Folds into my short list of favorite musicians. He is one of the only musicians who has both made me laugh out loud and moved me to tears. He is a story teller, and most of his songs are insights into the lives of the characters he has created. They are a far cry from the generic love songs of popular music.
As any good artist grows and matures, so does their work. All too often when a band has a song you enjoy, or even an album you can really get behind and recommend to all your friends, they end up changing in ways that you no longer identify with. Or worse than that, some stagnate and release album after album that is virtually identical.
Ben Folds, with the newly reformed Ben Folds Five, have shown that yes, they have changed as people. They are older now, have lived lives, had families, etc. but they have managed to hold on to what made their work special, which at the same time expanding on it. The new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, is a testament to that.
The first single, Do It Anyway, which has a fantastic music video you need to check out, is an anthem to pursuing your dreams, even if they seem completely out of reach. There are funny songs, and songs that will make you feel sentimental. Ones that made me laugh, and ones that made me think that yes, I’m getting older, just as the band I’m listening to is getting older. But that’s OK. That’s just another part of living. Getting older doesn’t mean you lose your sense of humor or stop loving the things you love, it just means you have more context to frame things in.
The Sound of the Life of the Mind is one of my favorite albums this year, and I really thing you should check it out.
23 October 2012