The Impossible List of the Best and Most Brilliant Output of the Great Ben Folds

Photo Credit: By Newted (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: By Newted (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How’s that for a title!

This is a little off-beat from my usual shortesttallman.com material; I just was grooving along to some BF and felt inspired to write a post!

And so we begin…

It’s ridiculous, really, to even consider picking a favorite musical artist.  I have favorites in each genre, and I have genres I listen to more than others, but my musical tastes are pretty eclectic.  Most people are like that, I think.  However, for the last 14 years, there is one artist I have been consistently drawn to, so if I had to pick a favorite, I would have to pick him:  Ben Folds.  I started listening to him in college, and fell in love.  Everything about his music I love:  he’s an extremely talented composer, lyricist, and pianist.  His songs are smart, relevant, hilarious, and can get you right in the feels!  They are clever, is what they are.  I think his music is extremely original, but not at all pretentious.  He’s got solo stuff, as well as stuff with his band, Ben Folds Five.  I can’t say I like the output of one over the other; there’s great, great material that’s comes from both his ensemble and solo endeavors.  I guess you’ve got that great common denominator there- Ben’s composing and performing talent!

Photo Credit: By michaeln3 @ Flickr (Originally uploaded to Flickr as 2004-09-15 077) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: By michaeln3 @ Flickr (Originally uploaded to Flickr as 2004-09-15 077) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Funny story as to how I came to learn of Ben Folds:  I was at my college orientation and met my future college friends, all of whom I thought were WAY cooler than me (because they were).  They seemed so much older and college-y than me.  (I like to think that they are blogging about how cool they thought I was but…..) anyway, so they were talking about music they listened to, some of which I had never heard of, but they did talk about Ben Folds, which I had heard of.  I had heard “Brick.”  So I went to Best Buy and bought the album, Rockin’ the Suburbs.  To this day, I listen to Ben Folds and Ben Folds Five music most often on my iPod or phone, and now the Tallest Tallman is a huge fan, too.  We’re not really “go out and see our fave bands!” type people, but we did go out to Boston about 6 years ago to see Ben Folds perform with the Pops at Symphony Hall, and it was totally amazing.  He has toured a bunch since then (he’s even touring right now!!), but the closest to us he has gotten is Boston or NYC, and it’s just too difficult for us to figure out a way to make it happen with our babes (tear!!).

Upon thinking about my favorite songs of BF, I couldn’t help but notice how I could categorize them, IMO anyway.  There’s three categories that I think each of his songs can sort of fit into:  his poignant, emotionally deep songs; his hilarious songs with lots of swears; and his swoony slow jams.  He makes you laugh, he makes you cry, he makes you think… I’m telling you people, good stuff!!!!

(Do you guys know how hard this was to compile?!?!  It was tempting to just copy and paste his catalog and the reasons why I loved every single piece of his output!  Hence the title of this blog post.)

Hilarious Songs With Lots of Guilty-Pleasure Swearing!:

Rockin’ the Suburbs:  Other than when I was in middle school and listened to Jagged Little Pill to the point that I thought I’d wear out my CD, I don’t think I’ve ever adored every single track on any one album like I do Rockin’ the Suburbs.  It is Ben Folds perfection.  I have to throw the title track and biggest hit off the album on this list.  But it pains me so, because I feel like I’m neglecting to mention equally amazing material from that album!  Like literally every single song is perfection on this album.

Effington:  Clever and whimsical (is that the right word?).  Hilarious.  I think the back story is that he had heard of Effingham, Illinois, and pondered the “effing” part of that.  Then, created the fictional Effington, Illinois for the song.  Effington could be a real nice effing place.  🙂

Army:  So much swearing!  So much angst!  I love every second.  I’m so cool in my minivan swearing up a storm when I’m driving (alone) and this song is on!

One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces:  Another one full of fun, off-color language.  Don’t give me no bulls***!  You know who I am!  Kiss my a**!  Love love love this song.  You have to feel better when you hear it.  Perhaps I feel as though I can relate to this one angry dwarf?  Also the video is pretty ridiculous, check that out while you’re at it.  The low piano part- you know what I’m talking about.  Good stuff.

Kate:  Super fun (and clean) song that comes off the same album as “One Angry Dwarf.”  There’s some interesting rhythmic stuff going on in this song that just gives it an electric energy.  Another one that just puts you in a better mood.  What is that percussion after “you can see daisies in her footsteps”??  a rattle of some sort??  Ha!  It is perfect!

Slow, Poignant, and Full of Deep Thoughts:

Cologne*:  Remember that female astronaut that wore a diaper so she could drive a whole bunch of hours without stopping to get to where her boyfriend was so she could kill him?  It was in the news several years ago.  That ridiculous news story is in this song.  Again, is the word whimsical???  Ben (if I may) explained at the live show we saw that he had taken some painkillers for back pain (I think) while he was touring in Germany, and the painkillers they prescribed were real doozies.  That trip was what inspired this song.

Selfless, Cold, and Composed:  This reminds me of riding on the train in England on my commute to my student teaching school.  I had lots of time to listen to music on that commute.  This is a great brooding Ben Folds selection.  He’s great at those, too.  The strings are great in this song.  Idk, actually, just the whole thing is great.

Landed:  another great Ben Folds slow jam (well, I guess not that slow).  Another one of those ones I listened to a lot on that commute.  I guess it helps me love this song even more that it was so relevant in a specific time in my life, and lives in a certain place in my heart.  This is one of those journey songs, like you feel like a lot happened in your thoughts over the 4 1/2 minutes it took to listen to it.

 

A Sucker Punch to the Feels/A Pull on Those Heartstrings:

Gracie:  This is one of the one that gets you right in the feels.  This is one of those great parenting songs- not that a non-parent can’t love it, but as a mom I’m like yesssss.  I love it as equally as I love John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy.”  (I could write a blog post just about that song.)  “You nodded off in my arms watching TV/I won’t move you an inch even though my arm’s asleep”- every parent knows that newborn moment!  Really, if you have a kid, a daughter especially, you are going to relate to this song so much.

Brick:  “Brick”!!!!!!  Such a good song!  Gorgeous melody.  It’s a bit of a downer, but a solidly good song.  I think this was the breakout hit of Ben Folds Five, so I thank you, “Brick”, for existing.  Oddly enough, I remember hearing this song when I was in American Eagle in high school and just being like what is this song??  (isn’t that a ridiculous memory?  It’s cracking me up actually!  And really I hardly ever shopped at AE in high school; maybe that’s why it was memorable, haha!)

Lullabye:  Like “Gracie”, it pulls the heartstrings, particularly if you’re a parent.  I believe we had this on a lullaby playlist for our kids, actually along with “Gracie.”  I love the B section of this song, and the piano solo part is awesome, especially when it gets into where the strings double, then converse with the piano.  This song reminds me of a combination of Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” and the children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are.  (Riiiiight?  I think those were perfect connections!)

The Luckiest:  Of course, this was going to make the list.  I think that this is the quintessential slow Ben Folds jam.  Weird lyrics that are somehow poignant (that is a common BF theme), with a gorgeous melody and piano accompaniment.  This one is a popular wedding song (oddly enough not ours… I think it’s just off-beat enough that we didn’t want it as our wedding song.)

 

How do I not mention “Jesusland”?  “Bastard”?  His “B***’s Ain’t S***” remake?  “The Ascent of Stan”?  “Kylie From Connecticut”?  “You’ve Got To Learn To Live With What You Are”????  I mean, has he written a bad song????  Well, I guess I can admit there’s some I tend to skip over.  His newer stuff sometimes makes me give it a few listens before I am obsessed; it’s a bit more… artsy.  His output has evolved, like any good artist, and his new (2015) album, So There, very much so demonstrates an evolution in his sound and is also cool stuff (namely, IMHO:  “Capable of Everything”; “F10-D-A” is HILARIOUS!; I kinda love “Not a Fan”; and, his piano concerto is also featured on this album).  He has such a great talent in songwriting, and equally in performing.  Anybody have any recommendations for other artists that a Ben Folds lover would be into?

Oh, and want to be like Ben Folds?  I read somewhere that he honed his piano skills by basically hunkered down in college and just drilled scales.  So, goes to show there is no substitute for time in the practice room!

 


*omg!!!  So it’s not that crazy, but when I looked for a Vevo of “Cologne,” one of the top search results was this video from the exact BF show we saw with the Boston Pops!  This chick had way better seats than us, although we had a good full view of everything on stage.  It was a crazy 24 hours:  we drove to Boston to see the show, FINALLY stayed at the ridiculous Sheraton castle hotel in Framingham, but didn’t even really get to enjoy it because we had to leave by 8am the next morning so I could sing at a wedding back at home.  We will go back to that overpriced hotel someday, it is so ridiculous!  The next time you’re driving westbound on I-90 near Framingham (can’t see it as well in the eastbound lane, but it is visible), look for this hotel.  You can’t miss it.  Who’s idea was that architecture?!

2 Comments

  • Sarah Walker April 23, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    Always love to see people singing the praises of one of my faves. He’s my hometown hero (Chapel Hill ties), and I saw him there in concert when I was in college at UNC. The Luckiest was our wedding song, and my sister also featured it at her wedding. If I had to choose one artist to listen to for the rest of my life, it would have to be BF.

    Whatever and ever, amen.

    Reply
    • theshortesttallman April 25, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      I totally agree!! And I love your closer! Thanks for your comment 🙂

      Reply

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