If you wrote me off, I'd understand it, Ben Folds sings on "Landed," the melancholy first single from his second solo album. The
piano-plunking singer-songwriter is addressing a former lover, but he could just as easily be singing to the fickle listeners who consigned him to some future Dork Rock of the '90s compilation after his band broke up and the hits stopped coming. But with the heartfelt, elaborately crafted Songs for Silverman, the thirty-eight-year-old Folds has found his footing as a mature artist. Many of the delicate ballads hit with the force of a "Brick"; the most affecting is "Late," a plain-spoken eulogy for Elliott Smith. Folds never loses track of his pop hooks, even when he's deploying tricky time signatures and Steely Dan-worthy chord progressions. He has also found more deserving targets for his wit than suburban rappers and T-shirt-hoarding girlfriends. The album hits its peak with "Jesusland," a deceptively perky mini-epic with Beach Boys harmonies and mournful strings that imagines a disapproving Jesus taking a tour of a red state's soulless McMansions: "Billboards quoting things you'd never say/You hang your head and pray/For Jesusland."
(Posted: May 5, 2005)