Ben Folds and Nick Hornby Lonely Avenue

Ben Folds and Nick Hornby Lonely Avenue
The combination of piano pop maestro Ben Folds and novelist Nick Hornby is such a no-brainer you'd think it'd already happened. And while Hornby did contribute some words to the William Shatner record Folds produced a few years back, this is the first time the two have worked together directly. Folds' knack for hooks and melodrama remain, but Hornby's words add some much needed focus. As a solo player, Folds' lyrics have a tendency to lapse into the silly and inane, such as opening "we can do this" track "Working Day." But just leave that one off your iPod and jump right into "Brick"-esque ballad "Picture Window." Similarly, character studies "Levi Johnston's Blues," a sympathetic look at Sarah Palin's son-in-law, and "Doc Pomus," about the famed '50s and '60s pop lyricist, take the focus off Folds' life. Even though Hornby was never in the same room as Folds, this feels like the singer's most collaborative effort since the disintegration of the Five back in 2000. And given the patchiness of his subsequent solo records, this is a good thing. (Nonesuch)