When the grunge icons of the ‘90s began to “reinvent” their sound to keep up with the ages, there was a massive tide of disappointment. More than anything, they needed to understand that their time had come and gone, making way for a new sound and a new generation of musicians who packed all the punch of those ‘90s bands, but with a style all their own. Bands like Arcade Fire, Phoenix, and the National started to leave their mark in the post-alternative arena of rock. Almost ten years later, that tide is turning once again and it would seem that a new age is ushering in, doing away with the bands of the mid- to late ‘00s with some newly inspired sounds. This year’s list of the most disappointing albums of 2013 reads like the “best of” list from four or five years ago. It shouldn’t be surprising how these tides turn, but it always is.
Loud Like Love
Placebo was primed to make a gigantic comeback and prove to the naysayers that they can hold their own with the best of them. Releasing a surprisingly good EP last year and finally free of the (supposed) restrictions of a major label, Loud Like Love could have been a wonderful reinvention of the wheel. It wasn’t. Instead, it plays out like a tired attempt by a band trying to grasp on as tightly as possible to something that is clearly slipping. Singing about the wages of technology interrupting social interaction (like that’s anything new), there is nothing distinctive about Loud Like Love, other than it’s a new Placebo album.
The 20/20 Experience (2 of 2)
No one expected Justin Timberlake to make such a profoundly romantic and wonderful record with his re-introduction into pop/R&B music. In fact, with Justin’s venture into cultivating a serious acting career, it had been so long since Justin made music that I’m sure there were people out there that had completely forgotten he was ever a musician. The 20/20 Experience (1 of 2) was so hugely respected that even listeners who had initially dismissed Timberlake due to his frilly pop boy-band beginnings, were placing the record on the top of their best of lists. Some were skeptical when it was announced that a second installment was announced for release later in the year—ultimately disappointed when 2 of 2 came out and played more like a tracklisting of b-sides and filler tracks. Moreover, having 20-plus tracks clocking in at approximately six-plus minutes each, listening to this second installment can become grating and entirely overwhelming.
When Washed Out‘s debut LP Within and Without was released two years ago, it surprised many with just how good chillwave could be. Atmospheric synths played over incoherent and beautiful melodic vocals, Washed Out cemented a style all its own, which is why it came as kind of a disappointment when Paracosm was surprisingly released—did you know this album was coming out, because I didn’t—with little fanfare and few musical surprises. Washed Out’s sophomore LP, intended to be more “acoustic sounding”, is less dynamic than its predecessor and less enticing. Not a bad record overall, but not as good as we were expecting, but then again, just how far can one go with a minimalistic musical genre?
Trouble Will Find Me
The National can pretty much do no wrong. They’re slowly emerging as the next Radiohead, primed to get huge pre-release orders for albums, and a die-hard fanbase that will follow them across their “national” tours (see what I did?). However, as good as Trouble Will Find Me is, it didn’t quite live up to the spectacular brilliance of High Violet. Moreover, the album could stylistically play right alongside High Violet with little to distinguish one from the next. Not that sticking to a sound is particularly bad, but six albums in, there could be a little bit of listener fatigue setting in.
With the breakaway success of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, this French band found themselves at the forefront of the alt-rock community. Unfortunately for them, Bankrupt! failed to feed off that momentum. And while “Entertainment” is quite a wonderfully catchy little tune, the rest of the record is a flat rendering of key shifts, augmented and flat vocals with very little to impress an eager number of fans wanting to hear what they know this band is capable of. The biggest saving grace to come from the disappointing Bankrupt! is that it’s varied enough to prove that Phoenix will most definitely not stay in one spot long enough for you to lose interest.
// Notes from the Road
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