Review: Ben Folds & Nick Hornby – Lonely Avenue

Back in 2002, English novelist Nick Hornby published a collection of 31 short essays documenting how different songs have influenced his life. 31 Songs is a fascinating read; very well written, offering the reader a unique insight into the mind of a music lover and how his love of music can carry him through any hardship. Amongst the tracks chosen by Hornby to describe his life was Smoke by the alternative indie rock trio Ben Folds Five, which held the most resonance in the collection due to the subtle lyrical connotations depicting the breakdown of marriage. This appreciation fused a friendship between Hornby and Folds, resulting finally in 2010 with their collaboration, Lonely Avenue.

The album contains eleven tracks with all lyrical content written by Nick Hornby and all music performed by Ben Folds. This inspired marriage instantly gives the collection an intelligent narrative, enforced with a strong piano-led musicality, turning each song into a beautifully crafted short story. This quality can be found throughout the album, especially in the bitter-sweet ‘Picture Window’, the soulful character portrait of ‘Practical Amanda’ and the tale of childhood innocence in ‘Claire’s Ninth’, which was actually Hornby’s first ever short story. The most striking track on the album is ‘Doc Pomus’; a driving melody and rhythm referencing the 1960s songwriter, whose story provides this collaboration’s namesake.