Bare Stripped Naked
Fronted by the elegant Carol van Dyk, this durable Dutch group has been making sad, sublime pop since its classic early-'90s debut album, Palomine. While the Betties weren't overly raucous in the first place, Bare Stripped Naked (packaged with a live DVD) takes the unplugged route, emphasizing the inspired songwriting of van Dyk and guitarist Peter Visser, who combine limpid melodies and tart lyrics to brew a potent angst cocktail. "Hell is other people / To hell with other people," van Dyk sighs at one point, going on to exclaim, "God only knows where I want to be / And he knows that it isn't with you." Later, she conjectures that a sleeping, smiling lover is dreaming of "how to get away." Reading her lines calmly, suggesting nothing better could be expected, van Dyk delivers a quietly devastating indictment of romance guaranteed to rattle all but the most determined optimist.