From the head-banging intro of "Hiroshima" (pun intended) to the symphonic sounds of "Cologne" and the electronic, synthetic experimentations of "Free Coffee", this may be Ben Folds most diverse album since The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner and with arguably more standouts.
I had the pleasure of hearing "Hiroshima (B B B Benny Hit His Head)" at Gonzaga's McCarthey Athletic Center when Ben was in town and thought it rocked then and it still rocks now, in a way only Ben Folds can rock. In terms of piano parts, I think this album most closely resembles his last endeavor Songs for Silverman but perhaps with more major chords and less syncopation (but I'll have to see the sheet music when it comes out to be sure). There's also a generally faster tempo to most of the songs which may make it more immediately likeable, but could also wear down its welcome sooner (it's still too early to tell, but a couple songs remind me of Speed Graphic's hyperactive "Dog", including the conspicuous "Errant Dog"). If you're anything like me, upbeat songs are more appealing immediately, but ballads grow on me over time, so my favorite songs from Songs for Silverman now are "Time, "Prison Food" and "You to Thank" (not really a ballad I know).
By all accounts, this is an engaging and impressive album from one of the most impressive musicians around. You can't deny he's got piano chops (maybe the best in the business) and he gets to show off a little (not like "Bastard" or "Philosophy" going way back...), but if you ever hear him in concert you know he's still got it. And though some may feel his lyrics leave something to be desired (my wife included) his songwriting is as fresh and original as ever with standouts "You Don't Know Me", "Effington" and "Cologne" (by the way, if you get the chance to listen to the "Piano Orchestra Version" of "Cologne", do; it's fantastic).