Barenaked Ladies – Detour de Force: Am I coming off like my hits don’t stink?

Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Detour de Force
Year: 2021
Grade: C

In Brief: Another mediocre release from this long-running band that reveals their idea tank to be almost completely empty. I say “almost” because there is some occasional wit and insight for those willing to dig through the deep cuts and listen for more than just the occasional bouncy call-back to their 90s heyday. They’ve given all three of their songwriters something to do, and the diversity is appreciated, even if a lot of the ideas don’t really stick. Let’s just say that I appreciate the “detours” on this album a lot more than the “force”.

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The Best of the Ought Nots Revisited, Part I: 81-100

Revisiting the music of the 2000s was a trip that seemed like it would be an easygoing, nostalgic one when I first came up with the idea. I’d had so much fun a year ago, cataloguing all of my favorites from the 2010s, that I decided I wanted to redo that exercise for the decade prior, and do justice to some great records from the years 2000-2009 that I had discovered in the meantime. My most enduring favorites would hold up pretty well, I figured, but I’ve changed a lot as a person in the last eleven years since I wrote up my first version of a Top 100 list for the 2000s, so I assumed there would be some flash-in-the-pan stuff that I had a short-lived fascination with then, that didn’t stand up well to the test of time and would be easy to dump in favor of new entries. And boy, did I have loads of old-but-new-to-me albums queued up and ready to explore in Spotify – entire discographies from bands I’d fallen in love with in the 2010s and figured, “Well hey, they were probably putting out some really good stuff that was completely off my radar in the 2000s, bet I’ll find a ton of new favorites along the way!” Powering through all of that turned out to be the exact opposite of easy, and I’m still not sure after giving all of those albums at least two full listens that I was able to fully digest a lot of them. I kind of had to pick the most promising candidates, give those a final listen, and then move on. In fact, I can’t think of a list I’ve done for this blog that has ever caused me to stress and second-guess myself as much as this one did.

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The Best of the Ought Nots Revisited (Prologue: Wait, That’s Not an Album!)

I had so much fun spending the first month of 2020 summing up all of my favorite records from the 2010s (or “The Tenny Tweens”, as I decided to call them), that I decided I’d spend the first month of 2021 revisiting the preceding decade’s best-of list – the 2000s (which I wittily called “The Ought Nots” at the time). I had originally done a list like this in January of 2010, when a lot of the newer records on that list were still quite fresh, and looking back, I’m kind of amazed at how little time in late 2009 I gave myself to prepare for that gargantuan write-up. I’ve discovered a lot of good stuff in the meantime that I found myself wishing I’d been able to give its due when I first wrote that list – but alas, any project of this nature is always going to be incomplete. This time, I came as prepared as I knew how, poring over back catalogues of artists I’d gotten into late in the 2000s or even in the 2010s that I had previously been unaware of or uninterested in at the time, and trying to be honest with myself when determining if any of this stuff which was new to me could compete with the long-time favorites on a list I had made ten years ago, especially if it meant admitting that some of those old favorites hadn’t aged as well as I’d hoped. I honestly may have bitten off more than I can chew, trying to make such an apples-and-oranges comparison while maintaining some measure of objectivity… but I’ll save the hand-wringing over that dilemma for the main list.

In the meantime, my first order of business is to tie up a loose end, and talk about the projects I enjoyed most from the years 2000-2009 that weren’t “albums” in the traditional sense. I didn’t make a list like this back in 2010, and as a result, there was a lot of good stuff that I left out. Most of these are EPs, and in a great number of cases they’re the first thing an artist ever put out (at least on a label), basically serving as their introduction to the world in the hopes of building up some buzz for that all-important first album. A few are anthologies/best-of collections summing up a band’s career up until a certain point – looking back now, they obviously tell an incomplete story, but I’m notoriously picky about the song selection for these things, so the fact that a few actually made me feel like they got it right is a huge accomplishment. One special case is a double-length album that was a repackaging of a band’s final LP along with a second disc featuring their final concert in full. (That band has since reunited, but of course they didn’t know they were gonna do that at the time.) Some of these discs are out of print, and I’m willing to bet a few of ’em are collectors’ items nowadays as a result – too bad my CD case that held most of these got stolen from my car in late 2007 (what can I say, I was late to the iPod party), and I wound up re-purchasing some of the hard-to-find stuff digitally. I’m glad I still have it all around to listen to in some form, because even if none of these recordings fit the traditional album format, they all brought me great joy back in the day, and still do. (Well, save for the one that was genuinely new to me. We’ll get to it.)

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Barenaked Ladies – Fake Nudes: Relax, this isn’t Breitbart porn.

2017_BarenakedLadies_FakeNudes

Artist: Barenaked Ladies
Album: Fake Nudes
Year: 2017
Grade: B

In Brief: I’m not gonna pretend any of this is super deep, or that the band could ever replace the unique voice of Steven Page, but it’s time for us to get over that. Fake Nudes, despite the awkward title, is a lighthearted, fun, and occasionally even beautiful pop/rock record with just enough curveballs to remind me that the group’s still got some of that old creative spark left.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2017: Favorite Albums (and Honorable Mentions)

Out of the increasingly eclectic list of albums that makes its way into my Spotify playlists (and eventually my physical collection, wherever possible), here’s the stuff that I enjoyed the most in 2017, and that I would absolutely recommend, with no reservations, to anyone whose favorite type of music can best be described as “stuff that challenges me in some way but that is always super catchy”. (Is that not a musical genre? it should be.)

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2017: Favorite Songs

It’s that time of year again where I run through the list of songs that inspired me, entertained me, or just plain got stuck in my head for amusing reasons, more than any other songs in the last 12 months. Most of these were released in 2017. Some came out in 2016 and I either didn’t hear them until this year or didn’t come to fully appreciate them in time for last year’s list. I’ve given brief explanations and YouTube links for the Top 30. For the rest… just check the reviews where they’re linked, if you’re curious.

And as always, many of these songs (limit one per artist) are collected in my 2017 in a Nutshell playlist over on Spotify.

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Obsessive Year-End List Fest 2015: Dishonorable Mentions

Before I get to the albums that got me most excited this year, I figured I should take a quick look back at the albums that were so disappointing that it was hard for me to even muster up the courage to give them a second listen. Of course I did eventually go back to these records to see if a little time and more carefully managed expectations would change my perception of these them, but for the most part, they failed to deliver. Not everything about these records is bad, and the worst of the bunch merits a D minus rather than a hard F in my book, so I’ve certainly heard worse in previous years. I’ve also heard something genuinely enjoyable from everyone on this list in previous years (or in one case, this year). But I can safely say that all of these artists fell short of their potential this time around.

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