My top four albums of 2001 are so good that I really could have presented them in any order. I settled on the lineup I did based on a quick dive into each album right here and now, so these rankings reflect my current mood as much as anything.
At #4 is Ben Folds’ first solo album, Rockin’ the Suburbs. Ben Folds Five had split up a year earlier following the release of their third studio album, and this record marked Folds’ shift into what would become a fascinating and successful solo career.
Ben Folds is such a good songwriter that he can’t deliver a bad tune even when he wants to.
‘One Down’ is about a time Folds’ record company required him to write 4.6 songs in order to fulfill his contract. Apparently he received .4 worth of credit for an earlier co-written song.
He shit this one out (as he colorfully puts it) to chip away at the obligation.
I’m surprised I haven’t already featured Ben Folds’ ‘Zak and Sara,’ either its studio version (from Folds’ 2001 solo debut Rockin’ the Suburbs) or the live version posted today.
This song is a perfect example of Folds’ gift for quick character sketches. I’ve always said that at his lyrical best, his songs are essentially short stories. Short stories sung with sticky melodies over exuberant piano music.
Ah, the very rare instrumental track on a Random Weekend. This one comes from Ben Folds’ last album, So There, which featured eight songs backed by an orchestra as well as Ben’s ‘Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’ in three movements.
I listened to the full concerto once, after first buying the album, and never again until today. I just don’t find myself reaching for classical or orchestral music, even if I really enjoy it. I find this sort of thing better in the background, whether it’s the background of a movie or everyday life.
I like when animated movies make interesting musical choices. Rufus Wainwright delivered a delightful theme song for Meet the Robinsons, Jack Johnson’s ‘Upside Down’ from Curious George is my favorite song of his. The Shrek films feature a treasure trove of excellent song picks, including Counting Crows’ addictive ‘Accidentally in Love.’
In 2006, Ben Folds got into the game, contributing several songs to the soundtrack of Over the Hedge. It’s a sweet, admittedly forgettable, movie but a great showcase for Folds’ pop chops.
Today’s Random iTunes Selection comes from Ben Folds’ 2015 album So There, a collaboration with chamber music ensemble yMusic. The album contains eight pop songs as well as Folds’ three-movement ‘Concerto for Piano and Orchestra’ (which I’ll admit, I listened to only once). The songs are mostly great, though.
‘Long Way To Go’ is an interesting track, in that it seems to be about itself. When Folds sings “we got just five minutes” there are exactly five minutes left in the song. Likewise with the “just three minutes” and “just one minute” verses. So is the whole song about getting to the end of the song? Or did Folds just time things out that way as an added challenge while writing about something more universal?
I know you’re all clamoring for Round Three of Montauk Madness to start, and I promise that will happen tomorrow.
But first, here’s one more Random Weekend selection, courtesy of Ben Folds, who (spoiler alert!) will make at least one appearance in the Montauk Madness Sweet Sixteen. Continue reading