Like The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, the 1999 opus of the Ben Folds Five, Folds addresses relationship schisms with unsentimental honesty. "But Judy, I won't be your bitch anymore," he trills on a pedal-steel-inflected narrative about ditching a poisonous entanglement. On "You to Thank," he refers to the willful ignorance of friends and family toward an impending divorce by observing, "We put on a pretty good act/And they seemed to all need to believe it." Folds' music reflects the pensive tone, ditching the primary color piano-pop of 2001's Rockin' the Suburbs for mature arrangements redolent of the Beach Boys and '70s Elton John. However, the depth of Folds' introspection -- as evidenced, in particular, by the father doting on his daughter in "Gracie" -- never sounds heavy-handed, despite its refusal to allow smirking jokes to get in the way.
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