Nostalgic piano-pop? Count me in!


Album - Ben Folds Five (1995)

Artist - Ben Folds Five

Suggested by - Alastair Block @bisleyt

Quirky mid 90s piano-pop.....what's not to like? On paper this ticks so many of my musical boxes it's astounding that I hadn't listened to it before. Ben Folds has always just fallen out of my view, in fact he co-headlined the "Lottapianos" tour with alternative-pop's piano straddling matriarch Tori Amos.

But before all that in the days of flannel and the burgeoning coffee-shop scene of the mid 90s was BEN FOLDS FIVE. Having been slightly too young to be contemplating proper grown up emotive pop music I missed out on the rise of Ben and the band.

It's strange because while I wouldn't call the music dated it definitely does sound like a product of the 90s. There's a wry sense of humor to songs like Uncle Walter and Sports & Wine which is right up my street. It's playful, doesn't take itself too seriously but at the same time isn't every throwaway or frivolous.

Some men never grew up fortunate like you,
Some men never found out what it takes to be a dude
That’s Sports and Wine
— Sports & Wine

Best Imitation Of Myself is the ultimate anthem for any teenager who's yearned for some self discovery. I'd bet that if I'd listened to this during my formative years it would have become my themesong for a year or so. That youthful energy and slight naivety is really endearing coming to this album as someone slightly older. Strange but true to say that it makes me a little nostalgic for my teenage years, even though this album didn't figure into them whatsoever.

Last night I was East with them and West within
Trying to be for you what you wanna see
— Best Imitation Of Myself

That playfulness also occasionally spills over into the realm of concept (not that the album itself is a concept album because it isn't). Boxing recalls an imaginary conversation between Muhammad Ali and sports journalist Howard Cosell. If that sounds like a bizarre way to round out the album you'd be right, but weirdly it fits...strings and all. I can picture it being performed in a cabaret setting.

Ben Folds Five gives me something that I wish more artists would, quirky pop with piano at the front and centre. Remember kids, not everything has to be all guitars all the time....