Nonesuch RecordsI really couldn't feel more mixed about an album, a singer and a writer. Lonely Avenue is rooted in a cool concept: singer/piano man Ben Folds takes the words of Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) and makes them into songs. Easy enough, right? Well, no. Not at all.
There are times when the difficulty of transforming a narrative - a clump of words with no rhyme or chorus - shows here. The power and humor of Hornby's writing, sadly, gets lost under Folds' supervision. For the most part, the prose-to-song process only seems to produce long, meandering, tough-to-follow songs whose weaknesses are shellacked in glittering keyboards and thick bass lines. Essentially: lots of polished turds here.
But in the confusing thicket, a few songs stick out - the simple, quiet and beautiful "Practical Amanda," especially. And, of course, "Levi Johnston's Blues": a hilarious ditty about the dork who knocked up Sarah Palin's daughter. - Leah Sottile
Recommended download: "Levi Johnston's Blues"