2010 ALBUMS: Disappointments Of The Year

We began once more our recap of the most notable albums of the year making a brief stopover in deceptionland, where some former favorites have landed due to recent missteps. They’ve found themselves in the company of a former grunge glories returning to the spotlight; rap stars that’ve seen better days and some kings who’ve definitely lost their crowns. The following are not the worst records of the year –though some of them could make strong contenders, you just have to check the charts to find plenty of contemporary horrors of a much more terrifying kind – but those ones which by former merits or renewed hype we had high expectations for that have remained sadly unfulfilled.

20-BROKEN BELLS-Broken Bells (Columbia)

At the end of 2009, news of a full collaboration album between Shins’ vocalist James Mercer and electronic wizard Danger Mouse kept us all drooling in anticipation, but despite a couple of excellent singles the record turned up to be much less than the sum of its parts, with no one really getting out of their comfort zones in a lackluster collection of radio-friendly, but rather dull tunes.

19-BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE-Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

Highly anticipated fourth full length by the acclaimed Canadian collective that counted with post-rock guru John McEntire at the controls, adding a hard-going heaviness to their sound not really suitable for a band that until now was one of the very few candidates to inherit’s Pavement’s throne.

18-SPOON-Transference (Anti)

Another of those potential heirs of Pavement golden indie throne, Spoon, were going from strength to strength for years, with every album gaining a wider audience and more rotund critical support. Unfortunately, ‘Transference’ wasn’t up to their former excellent standards. Anyone can have a bad day.

17-ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS-Swanlights (Rough Trade)

‘Swanlights’, the latest Antony & The Jonsons opus, seemingly suffered from a lack of evolution. The déja-vu sensation overwhelmed each and every track, even his regular collaboration with Björk felt a little bit samey. The always unquiet Antony, though, saved the year away from his band by reworking Oneohtrix Point Never’s excellent ‘Returnal’.

16-MENOMENA-Mines (City Slang)

Not that long ago one of the most dynamic trios in the current alt-rock world, Menomena’s comeback felt as if they had gone through a fast ageing process. Brent Knopf’s vocals sounded by moments like Kings Of Leon, which is a rather disturbing feature for any self-respected band.

15-BLITZEN TRAPPER-Destroy The Void (Sub Pop)

Blitzen Trapper’s first steps were a healthy cocktail of traditional (folk and americana) and contemporary (lo fi and alt-rock) influences. The bigger they’ve become, the more the balance has inclined towards tradition. Their last album was so predictably mellow and adult oriented their grand parents would have been proud to deliver it.

14-FREE ENERGY-Stuck On Nothing (DFA)

When DFA announced their first foray into rock, the blogosphere nearly imploded with excitement. Unfortunately, Free Energy’s debut didn’t survive the enormous hype behind it. Their fine but rather modest songs could have done with a more discrete build up.

13-OF MONTREAL-False Priest (Polyvinyl)

A much more focused effort than their schizophrenic predecessor ‘Skeletal Lamping’ and featuring interesting collaborations with top notch R&B singers Janelle Monáe and Solange Knowles, it still appears like the work of an act who doesn’t know if it wants to go eating mushrooms with Devendra Banhart or disco dancing with Scissor Sisters. Such eclecticism has worked wonders in the past, but too many open roads have somehow led Kevin Barnes to lose the way.

12-jj-No 3 (Secretly Canadian)

There’s a thin line separating melodic bliss from saccharine hell, Swedes jj amazed us with the melodies of their second offering, but became an over sweetened treat with their latest. The guys have learnt fast and they are already amending the mistake releasing a brand new single in which they even sample those British ambassadors of taste The XX.

11- CHROMEO-Business Casual (Back Yard)

Overlooked and underrated, the excellent Chromeo has been one of the finest examples of eighties revisionism during the past years, with their humorous attitude and incredibly catchy synth hooks. ‘Business Casual’ was the album that should have finally convert the unconvinced. The attitude, the sound and the humor were still there, but where were the tunes?

10- !!!-Strange Weather (Warp)

One of the finests representative of the post-rock tinged electronica so trendy during the noughties, !!! records have always had a tendency to veer towards a prog abyss, where they have happily immersed themselves this time with predictably off putting results.

9-EMINEM-Recovery (Interscope)

Last year’s Eminem returned with ‘Relapse’, the first installment of a two-part set. The reception was so tepid that the second was postponed for months, in hope to find a way to bring back his selling power. The former enfant terrible of rap has managed to fully restore his brand appeal at the cost of reducing his critical rants to little else that well-calculated R&B numbers with an eye in the charts. His duet with Rihanna is both the best example of this new state of affairs and the finest moment on his ‘Recovery’. Sad!

8-N.E.R.D-Nothing (Star Trak)

Pharrell Williams’ recording outfit was back, flaunting once again his star power by dropping even a collaboration with Daft Punk. The superstar producer was never A-list as an artist, but ‘Nothing’ can only be described as a lazy attempt at best and in most parts simply unworthy of the fame of its mastermind.

7-THE SMASHING PUMPKINS-Teagarden By Kaleidyscope (Self Released)

Good ole Billy Corgan threatened us with a new comeback, this time using the freemium model and giving away one by one the 44 tracks comprised on his new magna opera; first collecting them via EP’s, then in a whole box set. The number of enthusiastic downloaders may have been a bit scarce, as the planned weekly download was somehow postponed and so far only two of the EPs have seen the light of day. Megalomania doesn’t seem to pay these days.

6-HOLE-Nobody’s Daughter (Island)

More heroines from the grunge days, afraid of her fading popularity and aware of both the growing opportunities for rock nostalgia and the new found 90’s influence on a new generation of bands, Courtney Love managed to get Hole reunited and got a –rather unnecessary these days- new record deal. The album, due to a rather scandalous display of wore-off rock clichés, tanked both creatively and commercially. Have none of those grunge people ever heard of the ‘Don’t Look Back’ live tours?

5-NICKI MINAJ-Pink Friday (Cash Money)

Featured in virtually every single hip-hop and R&B record release this year and hailed as the seventh wonder of female rapping, Nicki Minaj had it all to deliver a blockbuster of a record: the guests; the producers; the image-shapers… so when ‘Pink Friday’ finally hit the net, we couldn’t believe our ears. Samples of Annie Lennox and Buggles; collaborations with Will.i.am that make his work with Black Eyed Peas sound like a masterpiece in comparison and the irritating feeling of watching a real hip-hop talent sacrificed in the altar of the modern R&B diva.

4- INTERPOL-Interpol (Soft Limit)

Since their first and acclaimed first album, Interpol has been applying the law of diminishing returns with every release. In their fourth and eponymous one the band is starting to sound like a caricature of their former selves, going through the same old sonic ideas that already gave plenty of ammunition to their detractors; who used to dismiss them as a Joy Division tribute band. The departure of drummer Carlos Dengler, shortly after the recording, was a sad indicator of the shape of things to come.

3-KINGS OF LEON-Come Around Sundown (RCA)

The young trio launched as the Strokes of southern rock has with time turned into a stadium beast, as corporate as it is bland. Since their much hyped-up debut we’ve been known to indulge the odd single, but ‘Come Around Sundown’ means a new career low for the trio; getting closer by the day to the formulaic spirit of such cringe-worthy US radio gods as Nickelback.

2-LIL WAYNE-Rebirth/I’m Not A Human Being (Cash Money)

After ‘The Carter III’ made him a household name in the States, Lil Wayne decided it was time to leave the hip-hop ghetto and conquer the rock market too. The result, ‘Rebirth’, will resonate in decades as one of the most maligned vanity projects any star has ever indulged in. Despite spending most of the year in jail, Wayne tried to get his reputation back after the predictable backlash and also released ‘I’m not a human being’, an album he recorded before his sentence. It boasts another impressive collection of guests as well as a return to his comfort zone. The inspiration, though, seems to have deserted the tattooed rapper as standout tracks such as ‘Gonorrhea’ amply demonstrates. Let’s hope the imminent ‘Carter IV’ is better.

M.I.A, Born Free from ROMAIN-GAVRAS on Vimeo.

1-M.I.A.-/ \ / \ / \ Y / \ (XL)

Rather awful third album by our favorite female artist of the noughties, who seems to have been more worried about her wedding to the son of the Warner Brothers’ president than to follow-up her successful second album. Maybe to placate the criticism, she also seems to have made a bigger effort to become more blatantly political, combative and rebellious than ever. But the main strength of her first two albums, her original mix of styles, has given way to a rather indigestive cocktail of punk, techno and world rhythms, shaping up a really arid collection of tuneless songs in the process. Not for the faint hearted.

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