Ben Folds Five: The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Ben Folds Five
The Sound of the Life of the Mind
(Legacy Recordings)

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Excitement was in the air when the news that 90’s alt-rockers Ben Folds Five were reuniting and releasing their fourth studio album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind. However, the music makes me feel like Ben might be on anti-depressants and after listening to the ten tracks a few times, I might need them too.  There are a few songs that feel authentic to the sound Ben Folds has always been known for (especially the more narrative brand) such as the up-tempo “Michael Praytor, Five Years Later,” which might be one of the strongest songs along with the very pretty, solemn “Hold That Thought,” but a number of the songs feel like they are lacking heart.

The group hasn’t been in the studio in over ten years, so there is certainly some room for growth and the newer sounds that arise in the songs seem to lean toward a more popular music sound, which is missing character case in point the lead track, “Erase Me,” or the overly polished lounge song, “On Being Frank.” The exception to the inner blandness is “Away When You Were Here,” which blends a well-orchestrated, gorgeous melody with a higher pitched, almost harpsichordesque piano. So we can give the trio a pass after a long hiatus and hope for some better songs in the future because it’s not that the new album is bad, it’s just that it’s not that good and certainly nowhere as great as Eric Joyner’s terrific album cover.

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About Tim Needles

Tim Needles is an artist, photographer, humorist, and writer from Long Island, NY. His writing and art work has been seen in multiple exhibitions and publications around New York as well as the Photographer’s Forum, French Photo, the New York Times, and LI Pulse magazine. He is also an educator and currently teaches art and film at Smithtown, NY and as an Education Leader for Adobe. He was recently the recipient of the Robert Rauschenberg Award in Washington DC and serves as the director of Strictly Students, a non-for-profit group for media and education. His work can be seen on his website: www.timneedles.com
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