I haven’t listened to much Ben Folds since Rockin’ the Suburbs, but when I heard the opening single Capable of Anything, I snapped to attention. As the opening track of the album and the first single, the song is a brilliant appeal to the senses offering the promise of potential with the gentle, stirring and intelligent lyricism you’ve come to expect from Ben Folds. The song takes the form of a man singing in earnest debate to his lover, asking for forgiveness for a slight not discussed, and repeating the refrain “you are capable of anything” (including forgiving him) but his partner doesn’t see that potential.
You are capable of anything/But you don’t seem to think/That you could fly so low or sink so high/That you could steal or cheat or kill or lie/But you might
It also questions how responsible it is to say to anyone that their potential is limitless, and how there is no good response when you try to fly so high only to reach a glass ceiling or the walls of your own physical and metal limitations, frustrated to find out that the world has gravity, consequence and limits. However the song ends on an optimistic maybe, “but you might.”
Not a Fan is a vulnerable but cutting song about a man trying to see what his girlfriend sees in a certain pop star, trying to embrace the difference in their respective tastes and love her for the difference, but not being able to reconcile himself with her terrible taste until it tears the relationship apart. The whole album is replete with songs of a relationship that is either on the verge of breaking down, but the album is at once playful and witty as well as thoughtful, sad and contemplative.
F-10 DA is wonderfully playful, as Ben Folds sings a sequence of notes whilst the notes he sings out are repeated are then played back to him by the orchestra, a duet of musical education – it’s in this song that his collaboration with the orchestra YMusic really shines, melding Ben’s voice and the orchestra into a fun call and reply track that just works.
The album is chamber pop brilliance evocative in turns of ELO and Arcade Fire’s chaotic orchestral sound in funeral, crossed with three excellent completely orchestral movements towards the end of the album. I can only confer my highest recommendation that you listen to this album. Your ears will thank you and love you for it.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.