Oct 19 2011

Currently Digging: Ben Folds – The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective

If you’ve never listened to Ben Folds, you’re deprived of one of the finest pop pianists of the past quarter century. Plain and simple. And now the Nashville songwriter has released the first thing to come close to a greatest hits (other than the energetic Ben Folds Live album). The career-spanning three disc retrospective gives you the hits, highlights, live show energy, wit and charm, and even some demos and outtakes for the hardcore Folds followers. Most of the great Ben Folds Five tracks from the 90’s are here, and the trio even reunited for three new ones, one of which is actually not too bad.

As Folds has aged from jaded college kid to sentimental father figure, his music nowadays is less observational and humorous and more….ballad-y. And the post-Rocking the Suburbs stuff really dwells on that. Still, there are gems from the past years that do not go unnoticed, like “You Don’t Know Me” and “There’s Always Someone Cooler Than You.” While not exactly the best introductory course to Folds’ prolific career (the collection overall seems more for the educated and devoted), the first disc does a decent job of covering big tracks from all of Folds’ full-lengths. And if you like what you hear, I highly recommend you delve further; the man still has a remarkable sense of how to craft a memorable melody.

Aug 3 2011

Ben Folds Prepares 3-Disc Retrospective

For many years now, Ben Folds has garnered a huge fan following and significant exposure with minimal conventional promotion.  He’s probably the most popular modern (and musically active) pop pianist.  And he really hasn’t had a notable “hit” per se, at least not since 1997’s “Brick,” recorded with the long-disbanded Ben Folds Five.  And whether you’re a newcomer or a longtime lover of Folds, you’re likely to enjoy this year’s 3-disc The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective, to be released October 11th.

The set impressively covers a prolific career; Folds has certainly released a lot of material over the years, but this cuts to the chase, focusing on highlights and favorites from his quirky work with the Five to his more introspective solo material.  CD2 features a plethora of recorded live tracks, and CD3 delves into deep cuts and rarities.  But the main selling point, for me, anyway, was the inclusion of three new Ben Folds Five tracks recorded exclusively for this retrospective, the first material they’ve recorded in over a decade.  There’s also 55 tracks available in an online vault, exclusively available online through Ben’s website.  Peep the tracklisting below and read more here.

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May 27 2011

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – The Top Ten

Today I conclude my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting the final ten songs.

10. Justin Timberlake – SexyBack (feat. Timbaland)

JT’s sophomore solo album was miles different from the R&B-influenced debut Justified.  For one, it was dirtier, sexier, raunchier.  Timberlake had all but washed himself clean of the boy band label he had established in ‘NSync, and on the other side was a sharp dressed man with smart production and crisp, Prince-leaning erotic pop.  The surprisingly simple, yet undeniably infectious “SexyBack,” the album’s first single, is producer Timbaland at some of his most creative, and catchy, creations.

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Jan 11 2011

Top 50 Albums of 2010 – 40-31

40. Games – That We Can Play EP

Games – Strawberry Skies

39. Delorean – Subiza

Delorean – Simple Graces

38. Brothertiger – Vision Tunnels EP

Brothertiger – Lovers

37. The Thermals – Personal Life

The Thermals – I Don’t Believe You

36. Diamond Rings – Special Affections

Diamond Rings – Show Me Your Stuff

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Jan 5 2011

Top 200 Tracks of 2010 – 100-51

100. Vampire Weekend – White Sky

99. The National – Lemonworld

98. Magic Kids – Superball

97. Drake – Up All Night (feat. Nicki Minaj)

96. Free Energy – Bang Pop

95. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

94. Evan Voytas – Our Thing

93. DOM – Burn Bridges

92. Games – Strawberry Skies

91. Dominique Young Unique – Show My Ass

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Jan 4 2011

Top 200 Tracks of 2010 – 150-101

150. Toro y Moi – Causers Of This

149. Toadies – Pink

148. Surfer Blood – Take It Easy

147. Local Natives – Warning Sign

146. Dominque Young Unique – War Talk

145. Magic Kids – Good To Be

144. Rihanna – Cheers (Drink To That)

143. Deftones – Royal

142. Wavves – Super Soaker

141. Thrift Store Cowboys – One Gentle Inch To Nine Violent Miles

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Jan 3 2011

Top 200 Tracks of 2010 – 200-151

200. The Golden Filter – Solid Gold

199. Delorean – Real Love

198. Band of Horses – On My Way Back Home

197. Games – Heartlands

196. Cults – Oh My God

195. El Guincho – Bombay

194. Marnie Stern – Nothing Left

193. Interpol – Barricade

192. Ke$ha – Your Love Is My Drug

191. Janelle Monae – Make the Bus (feat. of Montreal)

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Dec 22 2010

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 80-71

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

80. The White Stripes – Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground

The opening track from White Blood Cells squeals to life, Jack White’s guitar screeching into a staple new-blues riff before Meg pounds in and all hell breaks loose.  For many, it would be the first we would hear from this Detroit duo, and first impressions have a lasting impact.  Jack and Meg needn’t worry – they certainly got our attention.

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Oct 26 2010

Currently Digging: Ben Folds & Nick Hornby

Since his breakthrough in the early 90’s with the Five, Ben Folds has made his trademark piano pop and lyrical witticism known.  Combining parts snark, smart-assery, and sentiment, Folds’ quirk has been adored by millions for years.  Lyrically, you could probably aptly compare hm to a groundbreaking, clever, honest film/novel like, say…..High Fidelity.

How appropriate then, that the creator of that aforementioned work would be a Ben Folds fan, and that this pairing would grow into a long-lasting friendship which has blossomed into a collaborative musical effort.  And indeed, the team of Nick Hornby/Ben Folds is a perfect match on Lonely Avenue.  With the author at the lyrical helm, Folds is free to focus on the score, and the results are the freshest he’s sounded in a while.

The lyrics, unsurprisingly, feel like Folds tunes, mixing up cynicism with pathos, practicality with sympathy.  “Levi Johnston’s Blues” is an earnest look into Bristol Palin’s baby dadddy, with no sarcasm attached.  “Belinda” is a sad tale of a one-hit wonder who clings to his past fame and the sweetheart that inspired it.  “Claire’s Ninth” is a frank look at how a young girl deals with divorce on her birthday.

Hornby’s words are strong, and they fit perfectly with Folds’ keen approach to melody, and because of this solid teaming, the pianist has delivered his finest album since Rockin’ the Suburbs.  With an outing this impressive the first time around, how could you not root for a sequel?

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Levi Johnston’s Blues

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Picture Window

Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Belinda

Jul 30 2010

My Top 300 Songs of the 2000s – 200-191

Today I continue my ongoing feature showcasing my personal picks for the best songs of the past decade, posting ten songs at a time.

200. 50 Cent – I Get Money

Dr. Dre and Eminem’s protege hasn’t released anything of substance, save for this song, in my opinion.  Most would say his first album is pretty good, and that “In Da Club” is an alright song, but they are sadly mistaken.  For some reason though, this song, released late in Fiddy’s career, really took a shine to me.  Maybe it’s the snare hits, the deep synth line, or the rhythmic sampling. Maybe it’s 50’s dumb rhymes.  Maybe it’s because every time I hear this song my thoughts hearken back to a college party when a friend was trying to teach me how to C-walk to this song.  Yeah, it’s probably that last one.

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