As my recent list of top 20 albums of the decade so far was wrapping up, my brother-in-law asked me if I’d forgotten to consider Ben Folds Five’s The Sound of the Life of the Mind.
For a moment, I thought I had. So I went back to my notes to see exactly how things shook out.
Turns out the album was in the 21st spot, bumped out of the countdown when I decided to make a space for Adele’s 21, which I had forgotten when first compiling the list.
Ben Folds is one of my very favorite artists in part because he’s a master of both the melancholy and the manic. For every subtle, soft-hearted piano ballad you have an off-the-tracks ivory crasher.
‘Sports & Wine,’ from Ben Folds Five’s self-titled debut, is as light on its feet as anything the band produced. The studio version (my Song of the Day #873) gives each of the band members a chance to shine, especially Darren Jesse on drums.
When picking my five desert island songs, or however you want to characterize this list of essential tracks, I knew I had to include a Ben Folds Five tune.
The harder question was which one.
Something from the debut album — ‘Jackson Cannery’ or ‘Philosophy,’ perhaps, or ‘Alice Childress’? Or one of the lush standouts from their sophomore effort — ‘Selfless, Cold and Composed’ or ‘Missing the War’?
On a film podcast I listed to recently, the hosts discussed Sight & Sound‘s decision to no longer let critics combine The Godfather and The Godfather Part Two into one entry when submitting their “ten best films of all time” lists.
It’s no doubt the correct decision. It’s patently unfair to let two masterpieces join forces in facing off against individual films. But they tell such a potent and tragic tale together that you kind of want to bend the rules and just go with it.
The middle act of last week’s concert was the reason my family and I attended in the first place — Ben Folds Five.
I’d seen the group twice before, touring for their second and third albums, and I’d seen Folds perform solo once. I also have many recordings of the band playing live, from a DVD of their excellent Sessions at West 54th performance to both released and bootleg audio files.
So while I’m not exactly the BFF equivalent of a Deadhead, I am pretty familiar with the band’s live show.