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BJ The Chicago Kid Worryin' Bout Me (featuring Offset) from 1123 (Motown) Add to Collection
4) Todd Fancey
Metacritic Average: n/a
AllMusic Average: 80
Relatively unheralded when compared to his bandmates, guitarist Todd Fancey has quietly put out two of the best records in all of New Pornographers sprawling side project catalogue. At least, AllMusic seems to think so, awarding above-average marks to both 2004's Fancey and its 2007 follow-up, Schmancey. A worshipper of the same so-square-it's-cool '70s pop as Newman, Fancey deals in hook-laden, heart-on-sleeve tunes so timeless that they almost feel destined to go undiscovered until years after the fact. It's a fact not lost on the man himself, whose own record label bio spends a paragraph talking about life in the shadow of the band's Big 3. However, in that same interview, Fancey takes it all in stride, saying "I’m just lucky to be able to do it all. It’s kind of cheesy, but I look forward to the artistic side of it."
3) Carl Newman
Metacritic Average: 76
Metacritic User Average: 79.3
Metacritic Average + AllMusic Average (Zumpano): 79.4
Carl Newman cut his teeth as a member of Zumpano, Sub Pop's mid-'90s indie pop experiment whose music was as critically lauded as it was criminally overlooked. Thus, his highest scores from those records, with 1996's Goin' Through Changes snagging a 9.0 from AllMusic. His later solo work hasn't quite reach those heights, with both Get Guilty and Shut Down The Streets each failing to crack the 75 mark on Metacritic. Part of the decline may be critics' weariness of Newman's mannered pop, which, as a rule, chooses not to evolve to suit the sensibilities of the day. Part of it might simply be his other band; as the main songwriter for the New Pornographers, Newman may just save his best material for when the gang gets together.
2) Dan Bejar
Metacritic Average: 76.9
Metacritic User Average: 83
Metacritic Average + AllMusic Average (earlier work): 76.3
Dan Bejar has never made a bad Destroyer record. He's made weird ones (2004's synthed-up Your Blues), he's made raving ones (1998's City of Daughters), and he's made sax-filled ones (2011's Kaputt), but almost all of them have ended up at or near the top of critics' year-end lists. If this list were just counting Destroyer records, Bejar clocks in with an 82 on Metacritic, and might have a claim to the top spot. However, past the borders of his work as Destroyer, things go to hell pretty quickly. Bejar's involvement with sickly duds from Swan Lake and Hello, Blue Roses drag his score down by more than five points, robbing him of victory like a tuberculitic center fielder.
1) Neko Case
Metacritic Average: 82
Metacritic User Average: 88.4
Metacritic Average + AllMusic Average (earlier work): 76.25
It wasn't even close. The title of "Best New Pornographer" goes to Neko Case, the only member of the band whose solo output rivals the band's critical or commercial success. Case has added a number of increasingly dark layers to her alt-country sound since the days of covering Everly Brothers tunes on 1997's The Virginian. Instead of recreating a studio-aided vision of the past like Newman or plunging headlong into the sonic unknown like Bejar, Case deals with the present, and all of its bruising realities. Whether she's confronting life as a woman outside of expected gender roles (2006's Fox Confessor Brings The Flood) or grappling with the conflicting feelings that arise at the death of a parent (2013's The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You) Case sews each song with a connecting thread borrowed from the tradition of Lorretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris. She may not be as prolific as some of her bandmates, but when you make music this emotionally rich, you've probably earned a breather or two.
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