Ben Folds Five is definitely a unique band. They have many different musical elements at play, all at once. In the beginning, it was a little bit overwhelming, but my ears readjusted to be able to appreciate their sound.
Their fourth studio album, The Sounds of the Life of the Mind, is as complicated as their sound. Upon listening to them, I thought I was listening to a parody of a Broadway show. Lead singer, Ben Folds has a very distinct voice in where it can be soothing; for example in songs like, “Sky High”, but then have a Bob Dylan, “talking-style” singing in songs like, “Do it Anyway.”
For being an alternative rock band, there is a great use of the piano, and other soft instruments perfectly exemplified in track number 10, “Thank You for Breaking My Heart.” A couple of things are for certain, there is definitely some of the melancholy influences from bands like Death Cab for Cutie, subtle use of vocal harmony and melodic phrasing similar to that of The Beatles, and I can’t help but be reminded of Rivers Cuomo, lead singer of Weezer when I listen to Ben Folds.
The fact that from just a few albums you have all these sorts of identifiable influences could only mean that Ben Folds is a lover of music and entertaining and that’s what he delivers in his new album. He puts all those different elements together and makes a very sound, and soothing album. It’s great work, but far from alternative rock, if you want to put labels.