The collaboration between piano pop guru Ben Folds and acclaimed author Nick Hornby, Lonely Avenue, has been a long time coming and the result was worth the wait.
The album flows much like a standard Folds album, balancing cheeky pop songs with moving ballads with great skill. Hornby's masterful wordplay and and sense of humor make he and Folds seem like musical soul mates.
"Levi Johnston's Blues" has been the much talked about track from the album which tells the sad but true story of Sarah Palin's almost son-in-law. Folds whimsical tendencies makes the story feel like any of his other characters while Hornby takes a tough yet sympathetic position on Johnston's life, using his own words from his defunct MySpace page against him in the chorus.
"Your Dogs" takes on the idea of conformity and divisiveness of modern culture, anchored by the lyric "Don't you think you want to be just a little bit more like me." The sometimes dark lyrics are hidden under a pounding piano and drum rhythm and big vocals.
Many of the album's tracks are accompanied by beautiful, sweeping string parts, like the grand lovelorn tale "Password."
One of the album's highest points is the upbeat musically, yet somber lyrics of "From Above." It's the story of soul mates whose paths never cross and never know they're meant for each other. It's easily Hornby's piece de resistance.
Lonely Avenue is truly a pairing of two great minds that created one of the best pop albums of the year. Hopefully this won't be their only collaborative album.
Lonely Avenue is out now via Nonesuch Records.