Ben Folds So There

Ben Folds So There
6
So There, Ben Fold's collaborative LP with yMusic (a classical sextet from New York) is poppy, ambitious and bold. Yet despite clocking in at nearly an hour — including a 20-minute-long concerto for piano and orchestra with the Nashville Symphony — the new record feels scarce on songs.
 
It's too bad, because the tracks on which Folds and yMusic pull their collab off with aplomb, like "Capable Of Anything" and "Phone In A Pool," are super hooky and fun; thanks to yMusic's woodwinds, strings and horns add colour and dynamism to Folds' sad, self-deprecating humour and witty piano pop.
 
Part of Folds' charm is also what makes him annoying: his prickly ability to flirt with lyrically getting on the listener's nerves. On quiet "Not A Fan," Folds shifts from love song to jerky criticism and back again in a way that's humorously human and all his, landing on a quietly muttered "Fuck you."
 
Yet elsewhere, his persona and piano chops are carrying too much, and there's not quite enough song to hang the arrangements on. Perhaps the band could pull off "F10-D-A" as a cutely crass tuning time warm-up live, but on record it's a grating two-minute-long musical pun.
 
"The Concerto," meanwhile, is busy and soundtrack-like. It's not bad, but it's something I would prefer to hear live or on a separate record, instead of as a long coda to the yMusic tracks. (New West)