Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue

I briefly talked about the release of this album a few days ago. The album came out yesterday, and it’s awesome. When Folds went solo, his skill as a lyricist showed. That’s not to say that he’s a horrible at writing lyrics — it’s just that some of his songs are a little awkward. Take “The Luckiest” for example. Beautiful, beautiful song; but I’ll just let the last verse speak for itself…

Next door there’s an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away

I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong
That I know
That I am the luckiest

Enough about Folds’ lyrics. Let’s talk about this new album where all the lyrics were written by Nick Hornby, the author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Fever Pitch.

One of my favorite songs is “Picture Window”. The song takes us through the final moments of a sick girl. Even though she has a beautiful view through the hospital window, she finds no solace.

You know what hope is? Hope is a bastard.
Hope is a liar, a cheat and a tease.

Yet it’s New Years Eve and that night, at the pinnacle of the fireworks show, she looks out at the “bright crown” over London and passes.

My other favorite song, “From Above” is best summarized by the final two lines of the chorus.

Sure, we all have soul mates
But we walk past them every day

As these two people go throughout their lives, they come close to meeting each other, but never do — whether sitting behind each other at the movies or entering a bookstore just as the other is leaving. It’s a depressing topic, made light by Folds’ upbeat music. Yet, this juxtaposition is everywhere in Folds’ previous albums. The difference? Hornby wrote all the lyrics; so the songs develop an engrossing narrative while retaining musical brilliance.

This album is a giant step up from Folds’ last album, Way to Normal. The lyrics fit Folds’ style impeccably. Or is it that the music fits Hornby’s lyrics? Who knows. All that matters is this collaboration resulted in an amazing album.

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