The albums I liked this year, I liked a lot. I listened to each of them a ton, and a lot of them became solid parts of my daily life. Then, I would hear about albums that other people liked a lot, and decided to check them out. Needless to say, not all of them stuck. At times, I even felt like I had just wasted my time by listening to some of these albums. Some are by artists who have been around for a while, who I have followed for years, but are continually nosediving in quality, others are by artists slathered in hype who I don't think are all that good in the end.
USUALLY A LIST LIKE THIS MIGHT MAKE A PUBLIC ENEMY REFERENCE AND BE TITLED "DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE" OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT, BUT THIS ONE IS JUST CALLED "UGGGGHHHHHH."
MGMT - Oracular Spectacular
Let's get this one out of the way real quick. This album has two really good songs on it, tops. The rest I find to be nothing more than jangly glam-pop that is very self-involved and preoccupied with its posturing. Hearing horror stories about this band's live act hasn't helped my view of them either. At least they recognized how stupid their association with Gucci is (see the issue of SPIN with them on the cover for this little tidbit).
CSS - Donkey
Once again, an album that has two very good songs on it ("Rat Is Dead (Rage) and "Move"). However, my negative feelings towards this aren't half as vehement as they are towards the MGMT album. The rest of Donkey is really just kind of "eh." I understand that most of this album was written and recorded on the road, and it kind of shows. Several songs fall into retread dance-punk territory that the band would have been just as happy to smash on their first full length. On Donkey, one can truly see a band that's just out of their element. I don't listen to CSS to hear cute love songs, or anything of any real substance, really. The band is at their best when they display the fuck-all attitude that made their first album a sleeper hit in my book.
Beach House - Devotion
Beach House, Beach House, Beach House. I've given you an honest shot, but you've let me down two times now. I can't really wrap my head around why so many people like this band so much, but at least I can say I gave them a try. I just ended up listening to what could be one of the most boring albums I heard this year.
The Black Keys - Attack And Release
These Akron bluesheads lost me with everything released after Rubber Factory, an album that I still find incredibly rewarding in terms of songwriting and recording (it was knocked out over a five month period in 2004, inside of an abandoned warehouse in their hometown of Akron, OH). Attack And Release finds the Keys in an actual studio, with Danger Mouse behind the boards. What came out was their cleanest, weirdest release yet. In other words, everything I don't want from this band.
Alkaline Trio - Agony And Irony
Just a complete mess of an album. The Trio's last release, Crimson, was kind of iffy, but I was still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Then they came out with this, 11 tracks of hardly memorable rock music. There were times when I would look at my CD player while listening to this and be shocked that five tracks had gone by without me even realizing.
Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
Where was the noise? Where was the discord promised in this album? Did Ben Gibbard mistake "discord" to mean "eight minute long lead single whose first half isn't really necessary?" I see this album as marking the beginning of the real downward spiral for Death Cab.
Weezer - Weezer
Weezer's Red album is the equivalent of somebody you meet at a party. You think they're pretty cool, so you exchange contact information. The next day, you meet up, and all of a sudden, this person is REALLY obnoxious, and not the alright person you had met the night before. The first half of the album starts off inoffensively enough (in that it doesn't start with "Beverly Hills") with "Troublemaker," which follows into "The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived," which, although containing some questionable lyrics, isn't that bad of a song. "Pork And Beans" even manages to recapture some of the band's Blue Album crunch.
And then the second half of the album dashes away any goodwill the first half established like a rock to the skull. WHY, RIVERS, WHY did you let the rest of the band take lead vocals on ANYTHING? Did you actually read bassist Scott Shriner's lyrics to "Cold Dark World?" I don't want to ever hear that dude say he's going to sex anything up in a strained near-rap-rock style. While it's good to see Rivers Cuomo coming out of his Make Believe era shell a little bit, it shouldn't be at the cost of an entire Weezer album.
My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
Evil Urges wastes almost no time destroying its chances of being a great album. Article A: "Highly Suspicious," the most confounding thing this band has ever done. Over a bass guitar draped in effects that dude with long hair that you always see at Guitar Center is constantly tooling around with, Jim James shrieks and squeals about "peanut butter pudding surprises" and whatnot. Then there's the goofy ass chorus. It makes you completely forget about the epic title track and "Touch Me, I'm Going To Scream Pt. 1," which are two very worthy additions to the MMJ canon. I'm not even kidding when I say "Highly Suspicious" ruined this entire album for me.
Ratatat - LP3
I'm just going to call this one a swing and a miss. The first two Ratatat albums are still great. The guys just decided to try a bunch of new stuff, and it just so happened to result in a not-that-coherent album that lacks the non-stop hook assault that defined their earlier work. It happens.
Jaguar Love - Take Me To The Sea
I'm always a little suspicious when the first single from an album is also the first track. Is a single supposed to serve as the strongest representation of the album, or just the most accessible? Either way, "Highways Of Gold" is still a good song. Unfortunately, placing it at the beginning of the album set the bar a little too high for the rest of the album from these Pretty Girls Make Graves/Blood Brothers alums to reach.
Guns 'N Roses - Chinese Democracy
Well no shit. Any album that has been built up since I was seven years old is almost inevitably going to disappoint when it is finally released. I even think Chuck Klosterman was straining when he awarded this album an A- over at the Onion AV Club. I'm only writing about this because I like Appetite For Destruction, and there was part of me that thought Axl was saving something special inside of himself for this, but no. He apparently stopped thinking of ideas after 1996, which is when it sounds like this album should have come out. But who cares, really? Who cares what Pitchfork, or Klosterman, or any outlet that focuses mainly on indie/punk/hardcore/whatever thinks? There will still be people that buy this album and love it unconditionally.
The Cure - 4:13 Dream
The first three songs from this almost had all of my faith in The Cure restored after 2004's spotty self-titled album. I was then completely unexpected for what happened next. "Freakshow" is just not good. I can't put it any other way, really. The rest of the album finds The Cure flailing through a few of their more poppy styles, but never really managing to make anything stick. It's almost like when a person trips on something and they fling their arms around trying to find something to grab on to before they hit the ground. 4:13 Dream finds the veteran band trying to grab on to a fully realized concept and failing.
4 years ago