Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Disappointments

Since mid-November, I've been listening (mostly re-listening, actually) to 2010 almost exclusively. This is of course in preparation for my annual year-end mix, now under production. I've decided to make a few preliminary posts leading up to the mix itself, and this is the first.

Why did I just spend three weeks straight listening to this music? I surely have a pretty good idea of what my tops pick would be. This is more a chance to catch things that fell through the cracks. More accurately, to give one last chance to albums that either didn't impress me, or perhaps didn't received enough attention. There are always a few releases that, upon this final review, I move from the "NO" pile to the"Maybe" or even "YES" pile. Overwhelmingly though, this re-review process leads to filling up the "NO" folder. No doubt, there's more bad music than good music released each year.

I'm not here to catalog what I thought were all of the bad releases that I came across this year. Instead, I'm going to share a few disappointments - albums that I legitimately looked forward to with anticipation, but ended up being (as Raoul Duke would say) "a lame fuck around, a waste of time."

Here then, are Gonzo's four biggest musical disappointments of 2010.

MGMT - Congratulations (Sony)

I remember it like it was Record Store Day. And it was! I admit, I approached the album with trepidation. 2008's Oracular Spectacular may be overexposed, but it's a damn fine album. As the hype machine for Congratulations began spinning, I was skeptical. It would be pretty easy for MGMT to not have another great album in them. But I started to buy into some of the hype. I mean hell, it had a scratch off cover! So on my first visit (of many in 2010, I might add) to Indiana, PA's Backstreet Records, I picked up the double LP on Record Store Day.

The album is...interesting. Truthfully, I don't think it's as horrible as many have cast it, but it sure isn't a winner either. I admire them for not trying to remake Oracular Spectacular. But Congratulations just isn't that interesting. I really wanted to like this record. And there are some decent tracks, but the whole affair reeks of mediocrity. "It's Working" is pretty much the only salvageable track here, and perhaps "Brian Eno" (though I fear this is interesting only because it's an ode to Eno). Maybe they can recover and put out another great record. But I'm sure not going to give it a blind buy.

.Jamie Lidell - Compass (Warp)

I first heard Jamie Lidell in the time between his Multiply and Jim albums. I loved both, thus Compass was much anticipated. It came out the same week as the Band of Horses and LCD Soundsytem albums. But the Lidell disc ended up being the odd one out. It lacks the musical diversity of Multiply and the tight, punchy, well polished sound of Jim. The album is a chore to get through. It's also lyrically a bit dark. It actually reminded me (in tone, not style) of Lenny Kravitz's Circus and Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple. By that I mean it appear to be Lidells "depression album.' That can be ok, but it simply isn't executed very well. The best songs on Compass aren't as good as the worst songs on its predecessors. "Telephone" standouts are "I Wanna Be Your Telephone" and "Enough's Enough," but these are fairly uninteresting in comparison to the tunes comprising Lidell's last two releases.

Prince - 20Ten (NPG)

It pains me to include a Prince album on a list of musical disappointments, but thems the breaks. Much of Prince's output in the last decade has had the Purple One going reflexively retro. Somehow, every time a Prince album is released, some half-baked critic hails it as "his best since Sign 'O' the Times or "as good as Purple Rain." Bitch, please. It's not a bad album, but it's Prince ripping off himself, and the result sounds horribly rushed and uninspired. As I said in my initial review of the album, Prince should probably stop releasing an album in year, going for quality over quantity. It's still better than Planet Earth, though.

Lil' Wayne - I Am Not a Human Being (Cash Money)

I won't say that I had huge expectations of Lil' Wayne's new disc, especially after Rebirth. But I thought perhaps we could forgive him for his questionable foray into the rock arena, and that I Am Not a Human Being might recapture some of the glory of Tha Carter III (perhaps this is because the album adapts one of my favorite tracks from the latter album). But nay, the album is a disappointment. Uncreative, lacking innovation, overly formulaic. Maybe I should give the guy a break. He did spend the bulk of 2010 in prison, after all.

These were probably the four most disappointing albums for me in 2010. Not the worst. But guess what - there was a lot of great music released this year. So much so that in my next post, I will briefly survey the runners-up to my year-end selections. Stay tuned...

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