Opposite of Optimist
It's the rare CD that can significantly alter the trajectory of your day, for the better, without resorting to the cloying and sing-songy, clichés that all too frequently infuse commercial pop music. In fact, after scouring my own CD collection, I could only identify but several recent examples of such gorgeous oddity: Aimee Mann's I'm With Stupid, The Shins' Wincing the Night Away, The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, and The White Stripes' White Blood Cells, as well as Weezer's venerable self-titled debut. Well, ladies and gentlemen, add another to this esteemed list: Singer-songwriter Duane Dolieslager's debut The Opposite of Optimist. That is not to confuse Optimist's mellifluous rhythmic energy with the saccharine giddiness of adolescent infatuation that permeates most current pop fare. To the contrary, Dolieslager is a man with a lot on his mind. We can decipher, from songs like "Anchor" and the jaunty yet forlorn "Like Day and Night," that there has been love gained and lost, though more the latter. His lyrics, at a closer glance, read like a cynical poet scorned by his love for being in love; and he wields this poetry like some kind of jaded cupid who has recently discovered the true complexities and politics of love. However, due to his considerable musical talents (in addition to vocals and guitar, he also plays bass and drums exceedingly well), Dolieslager has the uncanny ability to marshal all of his lovelorn angst into haunting, beautiful, and, yes, catchy melodies (You too will be singing along, at peak volume, with "Fireflies" and "Carousel" in no time.) Still, as it's name reveals, this is no album for those with a fixation for happily-ever-afters. In the end, what makes Dolieslager's debut so appealing is his ability to fuse haunting instrumentals with blunt, brutal, and deliciously ironic lyrics. In this, he reveals a complex soul, something that simply no longer exists in most pop music. -Brock Cohen Neat Music Correspondent People first began noticing Duane Dolieslager's music when his fresh take on Michael Penn's "I Can Tell" became a fast favorite on the online Penn tribute album "Look What the Fans Drug In." A few months later, Dolieslager announced the release of his first CD, "The Opposite of Optimist." Although this record may be his debut, it certainly doesn't sound like it. These 12 tracks showcase both his songwriting ability and the pleasant timbre of his voice, and Dolieslager pulls it all together with a playful confidence. Some highlights: Carousel - From a driving music box beat to a rich fullness that weaves in and out of the song, "Carousel" is both a beautiful and melancholy ride. Like Day and Night - There's almost a Beach Boys vibe in this modern-day take on the "opposites attract" theory. Anchor - From the early statement of, "With my head so full of thoughts in which you've starred, it shouldn't be this hard to ask you how you feel," this song captures the sweet torture of being unable to read the intentions of the one who matters most. Between the Pages - Dolieslager's vocal range really shines here, with the strains of lap steel adding a touch of yearning to this powerful yet soft track. Nowhere in Record Setting Time - This quirky song, which is already a favorite among those who have visited Dolieslager's myspace page, is one of the standouts on "Optimist." It's the type of song that would fit right in on a Jon Brion album, which is, again, a rare feat for a debut-or any record for that matter. Fireflies - Another sure favorite, "Fireflies" is infused with soaring vocals reminiscent of early Billy Joel. It's the type of song that reminds one of the unabashed happiness of falling in love for the first time or the sleepy contentment that comes at the end of a perfect day. Close to the Bottom - From the opening line of "I don't really want to let you go; I don't really want to try harder, though..." this song explores the gray area of a love that may be falling apart. Torn between staying with the familiar or ending a relationship for good, Dolieslager's realistic take is a refreshing departure from the black and white situations often depicted in mainstream music. I Won't Let You Go - In a love song that's earnestly sweet without becoming saccharine, Dolieslager's witty lyrics turn various clichés on their heads such as, "It's clear that we'll need more than luck when every four leaf clover...ends up being one more new leaf we're unwilling to turn over." -Michele Mari Contributor to Apple.com.