Duane Dolieslager – The Opposite of Optimist (2007)
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Duane Dolieslager - The Opposite of Optimist

As eagle-eyed readers of this space may have noted, starting some weeks ago, I began running record reviews written by people not named “me.” Given that it’s my name on the masthead, and given that this isn’t exactly rocket science we’re talking about, you may have wondered why I started fobbing the “hard work” of writing off on others and then foisting their prose onto your browser.

Here’s why: People are recording a lot of albums. All the time. It may not seem like it if all you’ve got to go on are the endcaps at your local Target or Best Buy, but believe me, there’s a ton of new music coming out every week, and I am only one man, and a not particularly bright one at that, and if I tried to review everything myself, I would die.

For proof, here’s Duane Dolieslager’s The Opposite of Optimist, an album that showed up in my mailbox encased in clear bubble wrap, addressed to me, even though I have no memory of ever talking to Duane Dolieslager or giving him my address. (For the record, he swears I did give it to him, but then again, he also made some jokes about flying out to New Hampshire and sleeping in my yard.)

I digress. I digress because The Opposite of Optimist is a wonderful record, a surprisingly wonderful record, an album I can’t make not wonderful no matter how many times I listen to it, which is something like eighteen times now, and were I not to digress, this review would be one sentence long — “Duane Dolieslager’s The Opposite of Optimist is a wonderful record” — and that seems a little short.

Some people are calling the album “power pop,” but I don’t think that really fits; this isn’t to say Dolieslager’s stuff isn’t powerful, or pop, but it lacks the crunch of, say, Cheap Trick. A lot of people are also comparing his music to Michael Penn’s, but given that I really enjoy Duane Dolieslager and frequently find Penn’s songs to be gratingly “clever,” I’m not inclined to agree with that comparison either. Vocally, he bears more than a passing similarity to A.J. Croce, but really, Dolieslager’s just very good in a very straightforward, classically singer/songwriter way. There’s no shtick here, and no gimmicks, just a dozen extremely well-written songs.

I should also point out that Opposite is probably the most thoughtfully sequenced album I’ve heard in years. In the age of random play, this might not matter much to most people, but if you still look for a listening experience in a new LP, you’re bound to appreciate this album’s artful blend of tempos and textures. I won’t be surprised if this collection finds its way onto my year-end best-of list, and if you’re smart enough to buy it, you won’t be either. Try “Carousel” (download) and “Nothing’s New” (download).