Ben Folds “Way to Normal”

Ben Folds has never strayed too far from his trademark geek-pop sensibilities. He’s honed the sound even further over the last few years, playing for crowds of adoring college kids. The excitement of the live shows seems to have made an impression on the now Nashville-based singer/songwriter/pianist. His new record, “Way to Normal” is rich with Queen-like harmonies while focusing on Fold’s signature 3-piece sound.

“Hiroshima (B B B Benny hit his head)” opens up Fold’s new effort “Way to Normal.” Cheering fans are spliced throughout the track along with anthemic chorus, both clearly an ode to Elton John and Folds’ own live heavily-improvisational shows. “You don’t know me” the album’s single, has a sleek production value and could lend itself well to the next Judd Apatow production. Pop-pianist Regina Spektor, whose own sense of quirkiness rivals Folds, joins in.

“Cologne” feels a bit trite. It’s necessary for the flow of the album, but one you’ll probably start skipping it. Folds is as loose as ever on “Bitch Went Nutz,” singing, “How could I know that she never done blow before. She shouted fuck Dick Cheney and puked on Franklin’s floor.” With a nation of college kids anxiously awaiting his next tour, and a presidential race providing a constant stream of themes to riff off, it’ll undergo many, many changes in the months to come.

(appearing in Phoenix New Times)