Ben Folds: What Matters Most (New West) - review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, November 30th, 2023  

Ben Folds

What Matters Most

New West

Jun 12, 2023 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

It’s been eight long years since Ben Folds’ last studio album, So There, his collaboration with the string ensemble yMusic. A lot has happened since then to say the least and some of it has colored the writing for his new album, What Matters Most. In 2023, Folds has turned his attention to disgruntled internet trolls, the nature of fame, and growing old, amongst other sharply observed topics. Never one to stay in one area of music, this record covers a lot of ground.

Possibly in an attempt to wrong foot the listener, the album starts with “But Wait, There’s More”—a fascinating Philip Glass/musical theatre hybrid. Building from a minimalistic note sequence, the song morphs into something that might sit neatly on the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman, with a bit of Brian Wilson thrown into the mix. From there to the closing track “Moments,” is a twisty-turny ride, but the view is gorgeous.

Folds proves he hasn’t lost his pop-rock songwriting chops with “Winslow Gardens,” which manages to breeze easily through multiple sections without sounding like an outtake from Yes’ 1973 album, Tales from Topographic Oceans. It manages to be a nod to his past without sounding like self-parody. “Exhausting Lover” is something else entirely. Over a deceptively jaunty tune, Folds tells a tale of an incredibly aggressive groupie and poorly thought-out life choices. It’s a gem. You’ll never look at a piece of Hot Wheels track in the same way again. I’m reliably informed that it’s not based on experience…

The last track, “Moments,” is a beautiful way to finish a record. Folds drafted in Tim Harrington and Paul Wright from Tall Heights to finish the song as he found he couldn’t quite manage to write something as uplifting as he thought the song should be. He chose his cohorts well as the song manages to be strong and positive without having to resort to clichés.

Ben Folds has made a welcome return to the world of popular music with What Matters Most. While some of his contemporaries are content to peddle nostalgia, Folds continues to stretch out and try new styles for size. Fortunately for us, they all seem to fit him perfectly. (

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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