The other side of the nearly-half-time report
Last week I listed all of the albums I've really loved so far in 2014 - a really long list. So many great albums already - and over half the year to go. So now it's time to list the giant let-downs, the stink-buzz, the ones I wanted to like but hated, the ones that maybe never stood a chance. Here's the shorter list at any rate - click on the links for the full review of each item.
Shaun Kirk, Giving: The ugly Playstation tone of this crayon-traced "blues" guitar put me off. Instantly. Horrid.
Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes: Speaking of horrible crayon-scrawling guitar - the splatter-paint approach of Tom Morello really doesn't work here. And, yeah yeah, everyone that went to the gigs raved - including talking up Morello. But for me the gap is increasing - Springsteen hasn't made a worthwhile album in quite some time now. This is filler-fodder, he was milking it for the tour.
Brockaflower, Build It: A bit of talk about this as a Wellington "supergroup". But there are no songs here, no real ideas either. They can play. Sure. But who can't? That's not winning the battle. That's treading water.
Madlib, Rock Konducta Vol. 1: Not the worst thing I've heard but very close to the laziest/worst thing Madlib has offered up. Nothing to see (or hear) here.
The Bamboos, Fever In The Road: I remember seeing The Bamboos a few years ago, tight little funk band - not doing anything new, but doing it very well. They've since given away anything they had and opted for a horrible, plastic-pop sound. Very sad to hear this album - it was a different band altogether. And not in anything even approaching a good way.
Broken Bells, After The Disco: Sometimes I feel like I'm alone in the world when I don't like something. But that's okay - everyone was gushing about this band and this album and I just couldn't hear it.
Breaks Co-Op, Sounds Familiar: Very close to the absolute worst load o s**t ever. Surely an embarrassment for all concerned.
Nostalgia 77, A Journey Too Far: A smug and boring album.
Pharrell Williams, G I R L: I don't see the thrill here - or rather don't hear it. But people love Pharrell. Hey, fair enough. He can sing a bit, sure. But I'm not sure he'll ever find anything to sing about. This just feels like a cynical compilation of soundalike-highlights too - get a Daft Punk-sounding track, a few pop bits to rival his hook-singing for others. But no real bite.
Band of Horses, Acoustic At The Ryman: When your band doesn't have great songs already the worst thing you can do is strip right back to acoustic treatments to offer some apparent essence. This is phoney and pooey-smelling. At best it's (very) bad Ryan Adams. At worst, it's, well, worse...
Shayna King, The Day Is Young: People contact me - ask to send a CD. I say sure. I listen. I write what I think. Do I feel like a big bully and a meanie not liking the young Kiwi girl? No. Because if I loved the album I'd say so. It's really not as personal as people often think.
Elbow, The Take Off And Landing of Everything: This one will likely end up on a lot of the Best of The Year lists. But it won't be on mine.
Johnny Cash, Out Among The Stars: There's a reason - most of the time - why "previously unreleased" songs/albums were in fact previously unreleased. It's because they weren't good enough. This is the case here. But oh that clever single, that was good enough to sell it to most fair-weather Cash fans no doubt.
Nathan East, Nathan East: Prolific session guy releases debut solo album after 30 years of backing some of the world's biggest stars. It is predictably tasteless and dull.
Thievery Corporation, Saudade: Hey, I liked a few Thievery Corp albums. Probably still do. But it was hearing this album that made me think that most people who own Thievery Corp albums probably care more about the furniture in their house than music. That's utterly absurd obviously. But then so is this.
Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey, Going Back Home: A bit sad really.
Holly Golightly and The Broke-Offs, All Her Fault: There was a time there - about a decade ago - when I thought Holly Golightly was fantastic, bought up all that I could find. But this album doesn't offer a lot - I wish I hadn't heard it.
Real Estate, Atlas: One or two okay songs but ultimately it's all very boring.
The Bad Plus, The Rite of Spring: I love this band but this album felt like a gimmick, a clever little exercise that, ultimately, is so by-rote as to mean very little. It's a bit like all those Jacques Loussier recordings of Bach. You'd just rather hear (some version of) the real thing.
Pixies, Indie Cindy: I don't think the full album was any better than the EPs. Sure, they changed the order, you had more to sink your teeth into - I guess. But sometimes more is just a chore. Any Pixies fan claiming this to be anything other than a lame, sad attempt at recapturing a former glory is too blind to see, too deaf to hear...one of the big-time embarrassments, but 10 years of playing the "hits" has them with a devoted, lap-it-up fan-base I spose...
Estere, Estere: Actually a member of Brockaflower, and so subject to much the same hype - and then some. There are no tunes on this at all. Just vapid.
The Afghan Whigs, Do To The Beast: Another case of shaming the legacy, not quite as blatant - and sad - as with Pixies, but close. Especially because Greg Duli has released a lot of great material via his various projects since the previous Whigs albums.
Eels, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett: I like the guy, I like a lot of his music but this sadness is feeling phoned-in now, it's all just the same song.
Flip Grater, Pigalle: Her Feist-meets-Cat Power shtick has to end. She's certainly given up even trying to attach a melody to her songs it seems. Woeful.
The Black Keys, Turn Blue: I mentioned this here last week also but really not feeling this album at all.
Michael Jackson, Xscape: Another bit of grave-robbing so that the label can get its pound of, er, flesh. And some exec producer/s can buy a new boat or island - or both. Ridiculous.
So that's the list - short, and not so sweet. But there are two good things to note here. Firstly there's a long list of really great albums already this year. And plenty more to come. Secondly, I listen to these so that you don't have to.
Anything on this list that you have really loved? And what are your dud album releases of the year? Any big disappointments so far for you?
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