There's no getting around this: anyone waiting impatiently for a new Ben Folds album will be at least temporarily satiated by Ian Axel's debut full-length, This Is the New Year. Co-writing with Chad Vaccarino, the New York-based singer/songwriter/pianist co-writes classically influenced, melodic pop songs in which the arrangements are usually built around his piano part, with a rock rhythm section and an orchestra added. Axel sings in a slightly nasal tenor that is very similar to Folds'. And, most important, the song lyrics tend toward the quirky, starting with lead-off track "Leave Me Alone!," a romantic putdown. Another song with a theme of girlfriend criticism is "Hangman," but Axel can also celebrate the idiosyncratic joys of new love, as he does on "Girl I Got a Thing," which is about meeting a new paramour on the subway. And he can be sincere in his feelings of love, as on "We Are," the chorus of which is "We are the lucky ones." In fact, overall, he leans a bit less toward humor than Folds does, which may make some find him more palatable. But when a new artist is this similar to an established one, it can be difficult to find an individual niche.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann