The first track sounds like vintage Ben Folds Five, complete with fuzz base and pounding piano. The song, aptly titled Bastard, is a condemnation of all the know-it-alls in the world and would have fit in nicely on Ben Folds Fives 1997 breakthrough album, Whatever and Ever, Amen. Folds sound is even more pronounced on the bouncy, catchy Trusted. Filled with Beatles-esque harmonies and earnest lyrics (It happens to be/everyone elses dreams are Freudian clues/youd better watch what you dream), its one of the most genuine tracks on the album, transcending the quirky nature of Folds previous rock ballad fodder.
The first single from Songs for Silverman, the piano-heavy, Elton John/Bernie Taupin-style pop treat Landed, is ready-made for radio success. The melody builds to an emotional and plaintive chorus, transitioning to a silky smooth bridge bookended by Folds characteristically excellent piano work. Its definitely the most straightforward song on the album, and is the only logical choice for a single on an album filled with songs that need time to grow on a listener to take full effect.
The most surprising, and ultimately best, song of the album finds Ben Folds doing his best Randy Newman impersonation. The albums artistic high-point, the beautiful, affecting and sometimes humorous Jesusland, finds Folds awash in shimmering harmonies and swelling strings. The song tells the story of Jesus wandering through a Christian community, lamenting the beautiful McMansions on a hill, all to ebbing and flowing piano arpeggios. Its some pretty damning criticism of evangelical America, as Folds sings, They drop your name/but no one knows your face/Billboards quoting things youd never say/you hang your head and pray/for Jesusland.
The jazzy closing track Prison Food ends the album on this same theme: changing, growing older and the fear of being alone. Folds, now pushing 40, has created one of the more mature albums of his career, despite some regrettable moments (avoid Gracie, Folds numbingly sappy ode to his daughter, at all costs). Its an album any longtime fan will enjoy; more so in the albums stunning DualDisc version, which includes 40 minutes of live footage, as well as the entire album in 5.1 surround sound.
After all, any Ben Folds fan will tell you that the real treasures in any of his albums lie in the intricate melodies that Folds seems able to write effortlessly. Songs for Silverman proves that the older, wiser, more cynical Ben Folds can still be affecting, and best of all, interesting.