ben folds top ten.

benfolds20112there are so many incredible options, that i feel like i ought to begin with a handful of tracks that didn’t quite make the top ten cut. in no particular order…

jackson cannery – ben folds five
alice childress – ben folds five
best imitation of myself – ben folds five
selfless, cold and composed – whatever and ever amen***
smoke – whatever and ever amen
battle of who could care less – whatever and ever amen***
losing lisa – rockin’ the suburbs
annie waits – rockin’ the suburbs***
you to thank – songs for silverman
get your hands off my woman – super d EP

dr. yang – way to normal***
a working day – lonely avenue
the sound of the life of the mind – the sound of the life of the mind

*** – denotes “first four out” (to use bracketology terminology)

10. narcolepsy, ben folds five – the unauthorized biography of reinhold messner
this song is way too hilarious to leave off the list which is why it comes in just ahead of these other tracks. sometimes ben’s humor can come off as childish and silly and it ruins the song, but this one he gets just right. the opening instrumental dupes you into thinking it’s going be a serious orchestral track. then the lyrics sound serious, but they’re NOT.

9. your dogs, ben folds & nick hornby – lonely avenue
for those of you who don’t know: nick hornby wrote “high fidelity”. so this album, as i understand it, is ben’s music with nick’s lyrics. it’s like the postal service only this ben is doesn’t suck. anyway, this track is all about how ben’s got this white trash neighbor who he claims he doesn’t judge but then basically does throughout the song. but we all do this right? it’s genius. and, as usual, when his social-consiousness sky rockets, so does ben’s humor.

8. erase me, ben folds five – the sound of the life of the mind
too soon? i wrestled including anything from this album due to it’s recent release, but this song is too great. besides, i have to celebrate the “five” reunion somehow, right? “erase me”…it’s a harsh divorce song that gets increasingly clever as the track progresses as ben comes up with different ways to explain how she “erased him” from her life. two interesting notes here: “option command escape” doesn’t actually erase anything. it just opens the “force quit” menu on OS X…also, on a sadder note, as of 2011, ben has been married and divorced 4 times now. so maybe i shouldn’t be celebrating this song afterall.

7. all you can eat, ben folds – sunny 16 EP
as a whole, i’m not estatic about the sunny 16, speed graphic and super d EPs (complied into the supersunnyspeedgraphic LP). it comes across as a hodge-podge of tracks that ben recorded in the mid-00s that never made it on to other albums. but there are some bright spots. specifically, “all you can eat”. the scene unfolds as an american dad pontificating to his son about the wealthy, greedy and overweight americans he sees around the restaurant where they’re eating. the line “god made us number one cause he loves us the best/but he should go bless someone else for a while and give us a rest” is one of my favorites in all of music.

6. mess, ben folds five – the unauthorized biography of reinhold messner
this song is gut-wrenching and i initially didn’t want to include it in my top ten simply because i didn’t want to have to write about it. ben has screwed up so many relationships that he’s decided to hide the parts of himself that are potentially messy in the future. he stuck alone in his mess of a life. the last verse is haunting – he images his life as an old house with abandoned dusty rooms. those are the parts of his life he’s going to guard in the future. and if that doesn’t seem lonely enough – the chorus admits that he doesn’t even believe that god is there. poor guy.

5. silver street, ben folds – ben folds live
apparently i really dig the depressing ben folds tracks because, once again, this song is pretty depressing. the neighborhood ben sings about here sounds like a ghost town. silver street is old and sad and dying. i picture a bunch of old men sitting on their porches watching the tumbleweeds roll through town. but really, this song is here because i’m a sucker for a gorgeous piano.

4. gone, ben folds – rockin the suburbs
in my opinion, this is the most underrated ben folds song there is. “rockin’ the suburbs” was the first album i really loved by ben. i used to drive my sister to school and listen to the first three tracks (annie waits, zak and sara, still fighting it) every day on the way. we’d never make it to track four, “gone”). then three out of the last four tracks are some of the most well known of all of his songs (not the same, rockin the suburbs, the luckiest). all those songs suddenly feel too mainstream to me, and it feels like there’s a shadow of popularity that i associate with them that makes me feel uneasy. but this song – this song is under played and undervalued.

3. one angry dwarf and 200 solumn faces, ben folds five – whatever and ever amen/ben folds live
i’m glad i didn’t go to elementary or middle school with ben because he’d probably hate me too. it’s like how when adele gets her heart broken, we all benefit because she sings songs about it…only with ben it’s getting made fun of as a kid. to whoever the o’doyle was that decided it’d be fun to call ben an angry elf – thank you. the angrier this dwarf gets, the better his musical responses are.

2. the last polka, ben folds five – ben folds five
this song has the most plays of any ben folds song in my itunes. there was a time (around 2005) when i discovered that the closer to BFF’s conception i got, the more i liked their music…which, now that i reflect on this list, is increasingly evident. also, if you know me well, you know that i’m a fantastic air pianist, and this is arguably the most fun anyone can ever have playing air piano.

1. lullabye, ben folds five – the unauthorized biography of reinhold messner
okay okay okay. i know you’re all thinking, “you just like that song because he mentions james earl jones.” and you may have a point actually. this song has a weird dream-like thing going on and it captivates me every time i hear it. the story ben is telling actually doesn’t seem very memorable to him. the facts are clearly a little mixed up – unless james earl jones was a family friend, it seems very unlikely that he was there. i wonder if this is one of ben’s earliest memories? the piano is mesmerizing and i could actually see myself singing a kid to sleep to this song someday. i can’t get enough…and the piano solo makes me head to this weird groovy swagger bob thing that probably looks awesome to all the other people in this coffee shop right now.


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