Album Review

Ben Folds/Nick Hornby, 'Lonely Avenue'

September 27, 2010

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The mere idea of sharp tunesmith Ben Folds partnering with equally clever — and music-minded — novelist Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity’’) to record an album of songs with music by the former and lyrics by the latter is enough to send fans of both into paroxysms of pure pop joy. The execution does not disappoint. It’s a compliment to each of them to say that the lyrics feel like they could be Folds’s own and that the musician brings his A game when it comes to setting Hornby’s vivid character studies to song. The fidgety drum pattern of “Doc Pomus’’ mimics the description of the furtive mind of the legendary songwriter of the title. With just a few words and judiciously placed spurts of synthesizer, “A Working Day’’ neatly encapsulates the angst, inspiration, and loathing likely felt by both writers. And “Picture Window’’ is a masterpiece, melding the understanding of the crushing nature of hope with a melancholy piano figure as a sick child watches New Year’s Eve fireworks from her hospital bed and knows the flipping of a calendar page will not bring a cure. “Lonely Avenue’’ is musical nirvana for lovers of the deft balance of sassy snark and sincere sentiment. (Out tomorrow) SARAH RODMAN

ESSENTIAL “Picture Window’’

Ben Folds plays the Orpheum Theatre Nov. 17.