The Barenaked Ladies' 11th studio album, 2013's Grinning Streak, finds the band sticking with the polished, mature sound they delved into on 2010's All in Good Time. The second album the band has released since splitting with lead singer/songwriter Steven Page in 2009, Grinning Streak is also the band's first for Vanguard. Once again, longtime singer/songwriter Ed Robertson takes most of the spotlight here, with keyboardist Kevin Hearn getting one self-penned turn at the mike. Clearly, with Page having been such a huge part of the band’s sound, Barenaked Ladies had a tough time rethinking their identity. Smartly, with All in Good Time, rather than trying to replace Page, the band moved in a more subdued, mature direction, making the most of Robertson's longstanding knack for writing particularly playful, but nonetheless heartfelt alt-rock anthems about love, loss, and the intimate little details that make up our lives. The band sticks to this approach on Grinning Streak with thoughtfully crafted arrangements that mix melodic pop with liberal electronic flourishes. In fact, the album has a bit of an ironic title, as the songs generally feature a tone of poignant reflection. Which isn't to say that the band has lost its sense of humor. On the contrary, it’s still there, but with more of a melancholy edge than when the band was an MTV favorite in the late '90s and early 2000s. To these ends, we get a handful of immediately hummable folk-pop tunes including "Boomerang" and the jaunty, lite-rap, feel-good anthem "Odds Are." While these songs certainly carry a bit more emotional weight than much of BNL's past hits, they also reveal a hopefulness. On "Odds Are," Robertson sings, "Sure, things can go wrong/ But I’ll take my chances/Odds are long, so why not play." Ultimately, while the toothy smiles might be wiped off the faces of Robertson and the rest of the Barenaked Ladies' faces, Grinning Streak reveals that their hearts remains firmly on their sleeves.
Grinning Streak Review
by Matt Collar