Ben Folds and Nick Hornby
Belinda is a ballad about a has-been singer on the nostalgia circuit who each night performs his one hit, a love song written about a woman he later lost and now misses, which makes reprising his golden oldie for sing-a-long crowds a bizarre form of public torture.
Such is the richness of a three-verse plot when a novelist turns lyricist.
Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) wrote the words for the 11 songs on Lonely Avenue, and Ben Folds set them to music. The collaboration clicks: There’s a depth to the lyrics rare in pop songs, and they inspire top-notch work from the ever-inventive Folds.
Hornby finds fresh ways to approach his topics, such as on Belinda, which is both funny and sad. He writes about divorce from the perspective of the couple’s nine-year-old daughter on Claire’s Ninth, and shows sympathy for Bristol Palin’s ex in Levi Johnston’s Blues. Hornby’s lyrics are smart, profane, violent, poignant, hilarious and absolutely true.
Folds pairs them with a wide range of sounds and plenty of catchy melodies. On From Above he sings about serendipity to a finger-snapping dance beat, while Levi Johnston’s Blues is built on clattering percussion and superb arranger Paul Buckmaster’s grinding strings. As for Belinda, the coda rocks like the Ben Folds Five. — Steven Wine, AP
Mark Ronson & The Business Intl
RCA Music Group
Mark Ronson & The Business Intl’s Record Collection is a thumping party, but it’s the album’s eclectic guest list — including singers, songwriters and musicians — that’s worth tweeting about.
There’s a very raspy Boy George on the steel drum-tinged Somebody to Love Me, and Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ghostface Killah joins Ronson when the Grammy Award-winning producer makes his vocal debut on the love-jaded Lose It (in the End).
And while it sounds like neo-soul pioneer D’Angelo is singing from inside a fish aquarium on the sonically warped Glass Mountain Trust, the crooner’s cameo is a surprise after nearly a decade without releasing an album.
First single Bang Bang Bang, featuring Q-Tip and MNDR, is fun and upbeat — representing a shift from the horn-backed, retro soul sound that Ronson achieved with Amy Winehouse, or the melancholy mood he created with Daniel Merriweather.
The b-boy-influenced The Bike Song, and You Gave Me Nothing — which includes vocals from former Pipette Rose Elinor Dougall — reveal Ronson’s latest penchant for synthesizers and keyboards.
Record Collection is a bold shift from Ronson’s two previous studio albums, but he flourishes in the new territory. — Melanie Sims, AP
The concept is tantalizing: Neil Young, alone with his guitar, hooks up with musician and producer of the stars Daniel Lanois in his acoustically souped-up house for an intimate, off-the-cuff recording done with no band or overdubs.
Unfortunately, the resulting pretentiously titled Le Noise mostly works better in theory than in reality. The biggest detriment is that while it sounds cool, the songs themselves are mostly not all that interesting, with a couple notable exceptions.
Love and War and Hitchhiker both find Young in a reflective mood, and coupled with Lanois’ delirious production, makes them seem all the more like they’re being transmitted in a dream.
The star of this disc is Young’s guitar and what Lanois is able to do to it. The audio effects they use, including a generous dose of echo on the vocals, can be hypnotic in small doses. Luckily they showed some restraint in keeping the disc to a concise 37 minutes, since there’s a certain sameness to the eight tracks.