The worst albums I heard in 2013
Before we deck the halls with boughs of holly and haul the holy back onto the decks for another listen - or, er, make a Best of the Year list before Christmas - I figured we should clear the decks, clean out the halls, dust off and dispose of the worst of the year. So here, now, are the worst albums I had to hear in 2013. Clink on the link of each item for the full review. Or make do with the précis. Argue below and/or commiserate - at least you didn't have to work through all this muck.
And So I Watch You From Afar, All Hail Bright Futures: This is like a jewellery box and a slot machine started f**king and we're left with the porno-sleaze soundtrack that turned them on.
AnikaBoh& Hollie, Peace of Mind: Acoustic shows (which weren't really acoustic at all and then the promoter panicked and rebranded the tour halfway through) then the winery tour with Fat Freddy's Drop and The Adults; what's next - a set of shows with the symphony orchestra? Careful what you don't wish for. This album is irrelevant on its own merit, what it is instead is an instant piece of tour mech.
Arcade Fire, Relektor: I hear music that is dressed up to seem profound, music with long intros, and outros, with just-competent jam-moments that flake away without ever getting funky. And I hear far too many f**king bongos.
Armin Van Buuren, Intense: I thought I'd left MTV on and there was a marathon of the one dance music track they play between their reality TV show marathons. And then I realised I never watch that s**t. Just like I'll never listen to this s**t again.
Badd Energy, Underwater Pyramids: It's hard to believe this isn't a debut. It's a second album...apparently.
Caro Emerald, The Shocking Miss Emerald: ...sounds like Lily Allen was forced to sniff an ether rag, got clubbed ont eh head and up to find herself trapped in a glass display case at Baz Luhrmann's house, made to sing and dance on the hour, every hour.
Congo Natty, Jungle Revolution: Big squelching bass farts dominate and it all feels like a surreal hangover from the student flatting daze.
Cut/Copy, Free Your Mind: The only reason this might fill some time, put a wiggle in your stride while you stand in line outside the club that's so hot right now for a week or two is because you've never heard the worst of New Order or the filler that Happy Mondays and Primal Scream plugged their albums up with.
Darwin Deez, Songs For Imaginative People: Natural selection says we won't hear a whole lot more from Darwin Deez - you can bet he won't send his fans a postcard from the Hamptons; he'll probably disappear there for two concurrent summers sometime soon on the family's credit card, write a book, sniff some roses. And peyote.
David Bowie, The Next Day: I kept listening - I even bought the vinyl. That didn't make a difference. I traded the record back in. Ultimately a very boring album with two good songs.
DJ Kentaro, Contrast: A whole new version of awful that had been not so much cut'n'pasted as barrel-scarped from the bottom of a tub that collects the residue of sweat expounded from a nightclub where somebody's daughter dances in a cage wearing a dog-collar and cycle shorts while anybody's son takes two steps forward and three steps back as he drunk-stumbles about concentrating on his shoes, searching, you have to presume, for his dignity. (Oh yeah, and he's wearing a f**king chambray shirt and an inane grin).
Eric Clapton, Old Sock: You almost have to see Eric Clapton's solo career as a prolonged exercise in self-sabotage...Here the old sock has been scraped for a few fusty leftovers - all those tossed off onanistic shrieks. And it stinks.
Fat Freddy's Drop, Blackbird: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Fly My Pretties, The Homeland Recordings: Yes! That's right The Homeland Recordings - as opposed to, you know, all those times they recorded offshore. All those times they travelled the world and weren't laughed off stage for dressing up in silly my-grandpappy-went-to-build-the-railroads-and-all-I-got-was-this-one-piece-faux-cloth-cap-and-wasitcoat-in-beige outfits. Here middle New Zealand's I-go-to-one-gig-a-year-but-if-I-make-it-Fly-My-Pretties-I-can-say-I-went-to-10-all-in-one-night favourites return with another set of song-dumpings. Where folk-meets-roots and says "f**k it, that'll do!" Where acoustic guitars aren't so much tuned as just left to add their run-off to the bowels of recorded music.
Hollis Brown, Ride On The Train: They make Joe Bonamassa sound like Eric Clapton. No, wait - no no, that doesn't work! What Hollis Brown sounds like, in fact, is if Chris Robinson didn't have the fortune to lead The Black Crowes and instead thought he still sounded like The Black Crowes but was actually a member of Ocean Colour Scene.
Hugh Laurie, Didn't It Rain: For medical dramas that are absurd but entertaining it's Dr House. For a reminder of the blues and jazz shapes of the past bent to suit the white-man thrill it's Dr John.
India.Arie, SongVersation: There's a cover of Strange Fruit that is so appalling as to remind that it's not just whitey that shouldn't touch that song. (Also, is Strange Fruit the new Hallelujah?)
James Blake: Overgrown: This album sounds like David Gray's White Ladder after a stroke.
James Reid, Saint: This is the debut solo album by the guy from the feelers.
Jed & Hera, Live At York Street: "Those that mind don't matter/those that matter don't mind". Oh, the platitudes. It's as if a bunch of Fortune Cookie sentiment has been cooked up to a soft train rhythm while watching the movie Once for inspiration/in desperation. Gah!
Joe Satriani, Unstoppable Momentum: Even the presence of Vinnie Colaiuta on drums does little to improve these guitar-lessons-as-songs that feature the guitar-throwing-up tone. The presence of Mike Keneally on keyboards makes you wish this album featured the presence of Mike Keneally on guitars.
Johnny Marr, The Messenger: I wanted to like this - just like anyone who bought this album did. Difference is I knew when to give up. There are plenty of people out there still trying to like it I'm sure.
Kanye West, Yeezus: The kind of minimalism that gets screamed at you - ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION, I'M BEING SUBTLE, YO! It's as hookless as that last M.I.A. album, as shark-jumping as the last two Kanye albums and so brutally claustrophobic. Did this "God" make an album in six days and on the seventh phone in the lyrics?
Katie Soljak, Sex 4 Sale: Mixing jarring spoken-word coffee-house wannabe nothing-musings with folkish song-attempts you can see that Soljak was aiming for Patti Smith and settled for Karen Hunter.
Kirin J. Callinan, Embracism: Hipsters will rejoice, there's a line about crying when listening to Bruce Springsteen
Matt Langley, Virginia Avenue: Virginia Avenue feels like Langley had a life-changing experience listening to Ryan Adams and ran straight to the kitchen to grab some greaseproof paper and a pencil.
New Way Home, Mirrors: Three songs in I clawed flesh from my arm.
@Peace, Girl Songs: I didn't see this as clever, or good or any real concept; it felt phoned-in slick and cynical from privileged-background fake-players...
Phoenix, Bankrupt! So here we have Bankrupt! which I can only assume has an exclamation to imply, in some ironic, smart-ass sense, that the band is well aware you could attach the words spiritually or artistically in front of the word bankrupt if you wanted to. I think we want to like Phoenix because there's some novelty in the band being this Gallic pop sensation, it gives the group the apparent sense of mystery that, frankly, isn't actually there. We're allowed to feign some mock-surprise at finding out they're French. Wow, they don't sound French. How interesting (When it's not really).
Pink Martini, Get Happy: It sounds like the Waiting For Guffman peeps turning their hand to wine-cooler matinee jazz and faux-opera shenanigans.
Pixies, EP-1: There's no reason to buy into this, no reason to buy this. No reason to feel any nostalgia. The Pixies are dead, soulless, gone. Kim Deal knew it. The smart money has always been on Kim Deal.
Queens of the Stone Age, Like Clockwork: I don't think there's any need for Queens of the Stone Age songs - or albums - to have titles. If you've got time to tell them apart then you've probably smoked too much weed.
Rhiain And The Utter Strangers, Heartplusmelody: It's as if Lena Dunham's character from Girls learned to banshee-wail and recorded it, uploaded it to Bandcamp and dreamed of superstardom.
Rick Bryant and The Jive Bombers, The Black Soap From Monkeyburg: I consider Bryant a great voice from the past. But time has caught up with him, ravaged his voice. And the songs just don't stand up. It's never fun pointing this sort of information out. But then, it wasn't a lot of fun hearing this album. Every wonky wail, every aiming-for-soul shout that wobbled and fell off the tracks, every dreary song that passed by...none of that made me happy.
Rod Stewart, Time: When he cuts the arms, legs and balls off yet another Tom Waits song (Picture In A Frame) you want to release the f**king hounds...the woozy fiddles and slack-strummed mandolins and acoustic guitars are a sad, desperate cry for a return to that signature seventies sound, rather than any sort of actual recapturing.
Sam Allen, Low Cost Culture: The EP's cover has Allens' face looking particularly grubby, well understandably, he's had it shoved right up John Mayer's arse for most of this EP. I have a picture of Allen, and this is possibly unfair, but I imagine he's shelved his Mayer and Jack Johnson albums for the next 6-12 months and all he's listening to is Low Cost Culture by Sam Allen. Well, fingers crossed he's the only one...
Sheep, Dog & Wolf, Egospect: Daft, pretentious and scattershot...is there any real shock or surprise that it won this year's Critics Prize at the music awards?
Stornoway, Tales From Terra Firma: What Mumford & Sons will sound like when they grow up.
Tahuna Breaks, Shadow Light: The end result is that Tahuna Breaks is no longer a ghastly reggae band. But what they are now - almost - is Jamiroquai. Well, that's at best.
Tattletale Saints, How Red Is The Blood: You can certainly fault the near-plagiarism of every single song sounding just like a busker's version of what they think Paul Simon might have sounded like if he wasn't a) quite as good as he actually is and/or b) born not at the right time but rather post-1980.
Will.I.Am, #Willpower: Take the worst cellphone rings and jokey toy-sounding apps that you drunkenly/stupidly purchased, add them to that Play-Doh recipe you recently downloaded, boil and boil and start humming the la-la-la-la-la-la bit The Smurfs do so (excruciatingly) well. Now, take the rolling pin and bash yourself in the face. Again. And again - for good measure. The Result? Something better than #Willpower by Will.I.Am.
Xiu Xiu, Nina: Anthony Hegarty finally has a stroke attempting to goth-crawl through The Rocky Horror songs as if written by Nina Simone.
8 Foot Sativa, Ten Years Of It: The lyrics to this entire collection are in fact: me wan' cookie! Me wan' cookie! Cookie! Cookie! Me wan' cookie! C is for cookie/that's good enough for me!
There we go - the worst albums I heard in 2013. How about you? Any of these make your list? Any you think I missed?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.