Ben Folds & Nick Hornby, ‘Lonely Avenue’ (Nonesuch)
Sarah Palin’s daughter’s baby daddy must be friggin’ stoked, bro: On “Levi Johnston Blues,” Lonely Avenue’s two knights of music nerd-dom use their disarming pop smarts to wryly sympathize with the hapless Playgirl cover boy. The empathy and humor run throughout: With Folds as his tuneful voice, Hornby describes a prim suburbanite’s tolerance of his porn-watching metalhead neighbor (“Your Dogs”); laments a singer forced to reprise his only hit about an ex (“Belinda”); and feels for a wheelchair-bound, Brill Building-era songwriter (“Doc Pomus”). It’s okay, man. It’s okay.