Just to be clear, this list is not so much about the worst LPs, but rather the most disappointing. If you can imagine for a moment just how many terrible albums there are in a year, from all those truly rubbish artists, so a ‘worst’ list would surely be impossible, plus we clearly haven’t spent 2010 listening to all of those, so we couldn’t critique them properly if we tried.
This list is about those albums that had our appetite fixated towards the end of 2009, as well as our ears’ attention upon their release, only to actually feel massively disappointed. Even after several listens and a willing effort to see if the album was going to grow on us we still concluded that it was a bit shit, so this list is about those minutes we’re never going to get back.
KLAXONS – SURFING THE VOID: OK lads, bring your drums to the recording studio, but you can leave those instrument thingys, we won’t be needing them. Lord only knows what Klaxons did with all the clever, razor sharp tunes and melodies between the previous album and this new one. This sounds like a band desperate to shake the shackles of nu rave by surprising everyone with a new direction, but actually simply lobotomising the invention out of their brains in the process. The title track is two and a half minutes of all the banging and crashing off of the debut, without any sign of a tune. Things improved slightly with ‘Valley Of The Calm Trees‘ and ‘Twin Flames‘, but even they feel like the worst tracks off Myths Of The Near Future. Music’s history clearly notes that sophomore albums are a distinctly tricky hurdle to overcome and none more so when the debut albums are as massive and genre-defining as Klaxons was, but to wade so far the wrong way smacks of bad advice. Their second effort seemed to take an eternity to come out, having ditched producer James Ford mid-process and replaced him with rock producer Ross Robinson. Tracks such as ‘The Same Space‘ show us a band lacking in enthusiasm and mis-directed energy, with a song that feels like it could run out of steam and completely stop at any moment. It’s a horrific track that never finds its tune and ends in a confused mess. We can’t imagine an album having less repeats than this one, but we persevered to see if it was a grower and can report that it’s seed is very much still in the dirt. File this on under ‘Aimless’ and ‘Lacking’. Here’s hoping that, with the nu rave shackles fully removed, they can now create something genuinely interesting for that now-even-trickier third album.
KLAXONS – SURFING THE VOID
MIA – MAYA: This album isn’t a complete failure, with tracks such as ‘XXXO‘ showing us the talent that’s undeniably been on display since we first discovered Maya Arulpragasam back on her debut LP. However, her successful progression as a challenging, alternative artist seems to have been halted with her latest work. You should always be wary of any critic that dismisses music as “bleeps and whistles“, as it sounds like your parents reviewing it, but it’s almost impossible not to mention it with this new album, as there are parts on here that feel like they’ve been created by a deaf robot. It’s like she saved up all her bad ideas and released them on one LP. ‘Steppin Up‘ sounds like a joke without a punchline, firing off the kind of lyrics that The Black Eyes Peas would have settled for, and no amount of style, or even the odd swear word, can save it. We know Maya has successfully commanded an alternative brand of pop with her previous work, but this album felt like it passed ten minutes before we even found a recognizable chorus, albeit getting delivered like she was as bored of recording it as we were listening to it. Throughout the album’s forty odd minutes there was a sense that she’d removed the substance and tried to keep the style, whilst replacing the substance with, well, nothing really. ‘Teqkilla‘ finds her trying to locate a decent hook, but it quickly gets annoying and if you removed the vocals altogether you’re left with a tune that sounds worse then your alarm clock on a Monday morning. For someone who often combined a bit of street edge with her Sri-Lankan roots, we seem to find neither particularly strong on here. She is closest to her heritage with ‘Story To Be Told‘ and ‘Tell Me Why‘, even finding some melody on the album’s best moment, ‘It Takes A Muscle‘, but it’s not strong enough to prop up the rest, leaving us with a feeling that this talented artist has run out of something. Lets hope she finds it again before the next album.
MIA – STEPPIN UP
HURTS – HAPPINESS: We documented our love/hate relationship with Hurts back with our post about their recent Christmas single, ‘All I Want For Christmas Is New Years Day‘. Suffice to say the relationship was well over before that moment, as we now enjoy more of a hate/hate relationship with them. This album was found at the end of a path that gave us some interesting singles and an image so tightly controlled it had Obama’s team suggesting the President consider holding a comb when making speeches. A large group of Hansel Hipsters and Gretel bloggers were lead along to their lair, as the hype climbed in tandem with the bands well-plotted career hopes. However, what arrived was an album of clichéd pop mulch, that was dripping with desperation. The bubble of their cool image burst like a rain cloud, leaving us drenched in the kind of boy band music that people make for 14 year olds, with the sole aim of making money. You know the sort – a kind of manufactured brand of mid-80s pop that only people with zero shame can sing straight-faced into the TV cameras. Sickly and confusing from the outset, with opener ‘Silver Lining‘ bringing in the synthetic strings and ending with a manly chorus of mens voices chanting “silver” to it’s finish, like a piece of over-dramatic, camp theatre. They don’t seem to have realised that this stuff is done far better by the likes of Clare Maguire and that it’s because she can really sing. Hurts’ lead man, Theo Hutchcraft, simply isn’t good enough and brings the whole set crashing down by constantly singing with a faux yearning. Sure, folk will tell you it’s got melodies and is just a piece of pop, so don’t take it too seriously, but you could explain X-Factor like that and surely most sensible people realise that show is a little embarrassing, especially to all of those real pop stars of yesteryear that they karaoke to with each series. The filler on the album – songs like ‘Sunday‘, ‘The Water‘ and ‘Evelyn‘ – are so terrible and lacking that with cement this thin the walls were always going to come tumbling down. Having been positively excited at the prospect of hearing an album that promised some mature, stylish, classy synth pop, we never imagined that it would get so rapidly shelved next to your mum’s Westlife CDs.
HURTS – UNSPOKEN
MGMT – CONGRATULATIONS: Another casualty of hype, this album let you down before you even hit the play button, with a strong contender for ‘Worst Album Cover of 2010′. It’s not even good in an ironic way. It’s plain awful. Plain and awful are indeed two strong themes running throughout this LP. Opener, ‘It’s Working‘, does the exact opposite, feeling very much broken, like a bad Beach Boys parody. ‘Song For Dan Treacy‘ continues the joke, taking them in a direction that was entirely missing on their debut, sounding in parts like a Vic Reeves sketch, were it written by Ray Davies. Twee little noises and samples run right through the album, hitting an echo peddle here and a ‘whacky’, fried bit of synth there. Ooh, how psychedelic. Gone are the hit singles from the previous album, such as ‘Kids‘ or ‘Time To Pretend‘, and in their place is a collection of songs that sound like they were written for four year olds. There’s a moment half way through ‘Flash Delirium‘ that sounds like Spinal Tap playing at a circus. They’ve almost totally ignored the dancefloors on this album, with songs such as ‘I Found A Whistle‘ and ‘Siberian Breaks‘ slowing down the record right in it’s centre, sending the last few stoners, that thought they were enjoying it, off too sleep on their couches. Your teeth will be grinding if you make it to the remaining tracks, with ‘Brian Eno‘ being a random move that should have perhaps been left alone immediately after they hatched the idea. Where the album tries to get clever, it seems obvious and panto-like, where it tries to mature, it gets snail-paced and lifeless. This is a record that had the Brooklyn duo trying to follow up a vibrant debut with a new direction, only to quickly get lost and realise nobody has come along with them. It doesn’t lack ideas, it just lacks good ones, and they’ve ended up with a poor, self-indulgent work that shows us a band that crashed into their ‘difficult’ second album with blindfolds on.
MGMT – SONG FOR DAN TREACY
THE DRUMS – THE DRUMS: We don’t want to come across too snobbish here, as there are plenty of sunny ditties found on this album, but they took a selection of simple songs and beat them with a boring stick. They neither nailed the kind of summery enchanting music that you just want to lay in a field getting stoned to, such as you got with Best Coast, nor did their brighter points really sparkle enough, unlike say, Two Door Cinema Club. The singles were the best bits, but that’s like turning to your mate, after he’s watched his team get thrashed 5-2, and saying “at least you scored a couple of goals“. Even on the better tunes there’s a recurring theme that sees them trying to out-do the previous song’s appalling lyrics, by delving ever deeper into the kind of poetry that’s just one bad idea after another. There’s far too many “whooaooaoaahs“, “hey hey hey heys“, “fun fun fun”, and words like “skyeeyeeyeeeye“, which make you want to throw your iPod to the floor in frustration. Some of the vocals aim for the Beach Boys, but they always sound like the backing harmonies are in a different room and they stretch them out for way too many bars, clearly believing they’ve found an awesome refrain. The whole album sounds like it’s lacking in IQ. It waves from boring, to slow, to boring again, like driving on a motorway in bad traffic; and on this album there’s 12 junctions to go before you get off. Johnathan Pierce regularly sings with a broken heart, but rather then feeling sorry to hear of his downtrodden breakups, you think, “good, I’m glad she left you, you probably bored the fucking life out of her“. At one point he even declares “I don’t feel sorry for you when you cry“, on ‘It Will All End In Tears‘ – quite. It feels empty, average and could easily have all the critics using that most forbidden of words, “nice“. It’s all so bloody nice! Well, Jonathan, everything is not alright – it wasn’t when Cast sang it back in the mid-90s and it still isn’t now. You were beige in your failed band, Elkland, and this new, strange, u-turn-of-a-new-outfit has somehow returned to similar mundane levels. This self-titled album makes this list for being the most irritating and featureless LP of 2010.
THE DRUMS – BOOK OF STORIES
ELLIE GOULDING – LIGHTS: When the best thing about the pop star’s album is not in fact the pop star, but the producer behind it, then you should worry. Starsmith did a fine job adding beats, putting the movement where there really wasn’t much, the pace where things were flat and electricity where there was previously only folk. The results are a tidy pop album with singles that grabbed number ones and the overall LP did well commercially shifting nearly 500k copies in 2010, but success doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good. The Sun is the most popular newspaper, but that don’t equate to quality now does it? Having been tipped by everybody at the end of 2009 you will sadly not find many of those tipsters returning to add Ellie into their best albums of 2010 lists. We were expecting an inventive, sparkling new pop star and we received something a lot more, well, boring. It plummets to the depths of dullness in parts, being entirely forgotten approximately three seconds after it finishes. Her star isn’t bright enough, her charisma too timid to be the showman that’s needed with this style of youthful pop. She doesn’t enjoy a particularly strong voice either, even having her vocals tweaked by the sound technician whist playing live on her UK tour. She certainly showed some talent when we first came across her, but this entire album felt like Ellie had been persuaded to adapt her natural folk leanings to suit 2010′s popular sound – electro pop – and the results were an uncomfortable mismatch. Unfortunately the resulting album fell flat and quickly ran out of steam for us. To be this dull and wet and slotted into the genre of electro pop was a bad piece of major label shelving. Lets just hope that she’s not left on that shelf for album number two, focusing more on her original folk talent, rather than considering how friendly it feels in the middle-of-the-road.
ELLIE GOULDING – THIS LOVE (WILL BE YOUR DOWNFALL)
So who would be in your list of this year’s most disappointing albums? Let us know in the comments as there’s always plenty of opinions on matters such as these.