Sunday, December 27, 2009

2009 Music: Disappointments, Turkeys and Overhyped Music Index

2009 potentially could have been the best year for music this decade. So many bands had long-awaited albums, reunion sort-of albums, and just highly anticipated records. I thought potentially the depth of great records could have really gone far. But unlike 2007 and 2008, one of the things I enjoy every year is finding *new* bands. There were some good ones still, but not really to the numbers or level of the last 2 years. Nothing as great as Kaddisfly, Between the Buried and Me, The Stiletto Formal, Burst, The Dear Hunter or of course Apes and Androids unfortunately. Long Distance Calling, note. , Local Natives, and I might even include The Antlers all being very good new bands, but not quite as good as those discoveries from previous years.

And many known bands and releases didn't really live up to my hopes and expectations. And many others of course got over-hyped.

What ended up happening, at least during-the-year (because a lot of times the best music from a year is discovered many years later) was a mixed bag. Some of the big names did make decent to satisfactory records to my hopes. But I'd say at least half or maybe more like 2/3 of them did not.

If I can take something from that in the long run is, not to expect much. Even
from my favorite bands. So for 2010, I don't really expect any of them to make classic albums. Oceansize, Orphaned Land, Jimmy Gnecco, etc. I want to have no expectations really. Midlake's disappointing new leaked record is a perfect example of that.

A lot of the albums that stick-out or missed the top 50 are included in this entry. However there also many not included. Mainly due to being the fact I didn't expect them to be so high, or weren't very over-hyped. Or I just didn't have enough time to include them (yet). Namely Persefone, Amogh Symphony, Job For a Cowboy, August Burns Red, fun, RX Bandits, Nile and many Metal and non-Metal releases.

Also of course many records I never got around to hearing like the Bat For Lashes for example, so lack of evaluation to even consider for the top 50 or commentary here.

Animals as Leaders - Animals As Leaders
This style has been done before many times. Instrumental prog metal.
How many guitar-centered bands alone did that stuff in the 90's? Rob Johnson/Magnitude 9, Black Light Syndrome. Even Explorer's Club and some of the other Magna Carta projects. Or just page through Progression magazine and you'll find dozens of groups doing this same kind of thing. None of them are LTE, nor even Planet X really.

Sorry, but the people who fellated over this band really should do some homework and realize it's been done before and it's boring. As I said earlier in the year, go listen to the The Kris Norris Projekt instead. And I suppose the post-prog metal groups like Shelter Red and Long Distance Calling as well.

Animal Collective- Merriwether Post Pavillion
I think this has become sort of the Little Miss Sunshine/The Dark Knight of music. Pretty much this band falls into the category of "Look at how funny we are" or "Look at how weird we are."

This album is dreadfully bad. No seriously, I don't think I could be paid to listen to this again. And the neverending ass-kissing on and off of Shitfork-Media has found it to new appalling levels of worthless-ness.

Strawberry Jam I thought they may have had something. Not that that album was amazing or anything, but it sounded like they may be figuring out how to write memorable, pleasing melodies with Psych/Pop style, while still being experimental. Unfortunately, with SJ they took maybe 1 or 2 steps forward, while with this album they along with all the lemmings who've been licking their nuts for this thing have taken 50 or 500 steps back.

What a god-awful overblown piece of shit-ster turd.
This may have or eventually surpass Fleet Foxes as the most over-rated
over-hyped release this decade. I can only hope in 5 or 15 years down the road most if not all the nut-licking it's been given will be laughed about. They can't sing, they're horrible live as I understand it. They're not clever they're not funny, they're not even really weird. They really are (or should be to most of the masses) IRRELEVANT.

I wish it/they wouild go the fuck away. Y-U-C-K.

The Appleseed Cast - Sagarmatha

I've somewhat soured on this band. I don't hate them, but beyond "Peregrine" I haven't found them at the level I thought I would. I guess they are touring to play the entire Low Level Owl back-2-back soon. And it is hitting town. I should revisit those. But with this new album, after coming off Peregrine in 2006, it didn't quite measure up. A very different kind of album. The piano I think was the best new element. But most of the vocals I recall being gone. And for that, I give it a minor disappointment.

As Tall As Lions - You Can't Take It With You
After hearing "Circles" I wondered if this could be a breakthrough album for this band And to a small extent it was. But ultimately I didn't find I wanted to play it
a lot more than that track and couple of others regularly. Their best album I guess
but not really something that has me seeing them reaching another level.
Their live shows opening for dredg and Mute Math I guess I'd say they excelled more-so at.

Astra - The Weirding.
Wow this was boring. Channeling the early Pink Floyd? no, not too well.
Low-fi poser-psych trying to sound like they made it in the 70's. But what
it actually sounds like is it was made in a tin-can in some dork's parent's basement.
I'll go revisit my Captain Beyond and Uriah Heap instead thank you.

Bermuda Weather Service - Excepting Incest and Folk Dancing

Haha, yeah this was a masterpiece of a joke record. The chorus from the Leonard Cohen piece sped-up to mousey-pitches and repeated for 40 minutes, really was peculiar for about 40 seconds. Yes, I personally had never heard the Leonard Cohen song before, so how in the fuck would I know it was lifted from it? I suppose in the back of my mind I suspected it was so. I realized this was an attempt at humor and a half-ass fraudulent approach to making music. But at the same time, it was something done as novelty and not to be taken for more than what it is. I may never listen to it again, but I still find it more interesting than the new Animal Collective and plenty of other shit-ster records that people wouldn't shut the fuck up about this past year.

Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect

This was rather hard to figure out. And down the road this may end up being much better than the lack of credit I'm giving it here. But a few things made this drop down my list. For one, it was not really cohesive like any of their other albums, especially Colors. Another is they seemed to channel Dream Theater; almost quote them multiple times. Which in subtle spots is fine, but I kept hearing The Glass Prison and Honor Thy Father in certain spots, it started to kill what they were doing. Another thing is they kind of repeated themselves, but not as well. The whole "Swim to the Moon" really is/was a chore to get through and part of that was I kept wanting hear Tommy sing "it's raining, it's raining, it's reyyyyneeeeen!" from Backwards Marathon.

I guess on paper, there's still a lot of work here I like; at least to regard it among the best 50 albums of the year. But in a way it was like Fear of a Blank Planet and a few other records in recent years. It didn't leave me with a fulfilling feeling that their other records have. I just felt I listened to a bunch of long-winded music with some moments to enjoy, but did not standout or stick with me in the end. And I know they are a band who can and have done that, easily. They sort of had to be prog for the sake-of, and didn't bring enough new cool sections to my liking. And to be fair, it was the follow-up to Colors, a top 20 for the decade album. Time may be more kind to this, but right now, I can't be bothered to want to listen to it.

BLK JKS - After Robots

Nice style..especially on paper. But in revisiting this, it does have a short-life of listening through. Definitely one of those records that has 1-sound, and the sound is charming for about 20 or 30 minutes when in the mood. I will say, I think their music might work better live, but I might have said the same about that band Fool's Gold that was on the bill with Local Natives and Edward Sharpe last month. Still probably better than Bat For Lashes, although I only heard 1 or 2 songs from them.

Born of Osiris - A Higher Place
More like a lower, less interesting place. Lack of keys, and gawd awful production on the cymbals (Likely highly compressed) made this un-listen-able sadly. The debut album was wonderful less-is-more. This was more of more-and-different = worse. At least Painted In Exile became like BoO 2.0 in some ways, and may be better overall. But maybe lp #3 they'll bounce back. Hopefully add more keys too.

Gavin Castleton - Home

NDV-like (especially the vocals) doing a melodramatic concept album. It has some charm, but rock-operas for me have to avoid the cheese to really work to repeated listenings. Ebu Gogo kind of suffered to a similar extent. But like Hevvy Devvy, Gavin does have a lot of musical and songwriting ability. But perhaps he hasn't put it together for a masterpiece just yet. At least recently I saw a video of him doing a sweet version of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" on youtube.

The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love

At 1st this seemed like their best, most bold statement. But over some time, it didn't call to me to want to listen to it again. Is it more prog? maybe. But other than "The Wanting Comes in Waves" there wasn't exactly any huge hooks or killer parts. Shara Worden is a nice singer, but also I found some of her vocal lines to be a bit too melodramatic. I guess it partly fails in comparison to their other albums. Partly due to it being a length-ly work (1 hour), and partly just lacking reason to go back to it. Not horrible, but not addictive.

Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

They channeled Led Zeppelin III among other things, and compared to Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes and even Grizzly Bear, the level of hype that this got was a bit more justified. But still this was hardly a top 50 candidate the way many people included it. And decade?, please.

Do Make Say Think - Other Truths

Not a lot to say, other than the fact it has 4 songs on it. 3 of which I enjoy, but not overwhelmingly. I can't claim to be hugely disappointed. But certainly, on paper, I could/could-have found myself more attached to this. I do think their live show eclipses everything they've done in the studio no matter, which is maybe why I see this and their other albums falling short of hopes and expectations/potential.

Editors - In This Light and on This Evening

Not huge expectations, but once in awhile this band do something I enjoy. I just was never too in the mood to revisit this, after my initial listening.

Exivious - Exivious

meh, this ended up sounding less original and inventive, and more copy+paste
jazz + metal.

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

2009's Fleet Foxes, but maybe more annoying and less-hyped. Which I suppose they
may score even lower. Sorry, but this is a band whose really all flash and no
substance. Local Natives will get the comparison to them among others, but
the level of this outfit's songwriting isn't even worthy of the comparison.
Pretty much among the 2009's token Shitfork's shit-ster trash. Hopefully they'll go away soon.

Imogen Heap - Ellipse

Also not really comparing to her last album which is 1 of the best records of the decade. She did try many new things, and for what they were, I think she succeeded. But it found the mood-music zone. Sad, in a lot of ways. I watched video after video of her talking about the songs here. She labored over them. I suppose you could say in a lot of ways, she overworked and overthought them. Or perhaps I wanted Speak For Yourself 2.0 and didn't get it. She's still a goddess and has a high level of skill and inventiveness as a musician and songwriter. I just see this maybe a bit like PoS's BE. It's a different kind of moody, ambient record. And for that, it was a mild disappointment given how great SFY was. Sorry Immi, I still love ya.

Irepress - Sol Eye Sea I

Isis style Post-Metal. Eroica are so much better than this band. There were a few pieces on this record that worked, namely the song with the piano, but overall, it's been done before and really this is what's wrong with "Post Metal."

Karnivool - Sound Awake
This was really tough to swallow. If I put this up rather high on my list, I'd be kidding myself as to how much I enjoyed it. And I am a big flag-waver for this band. But the truth about this album is.

1) it's too long. 70 some odd minutes
2) the production on the cymbals due to compression clip. Much like The Mars Volta's BEDLAM album from last year. That problem makes it very hard to listen to
3) There's a samey-ness on much of it. Had they not included 3 or 4 of the songs on here, it might have not felt that way.
4) It sounds almost too much like Tool at times

Those factors along with being drained by trying to get through it. I remember when it leaked I played it twice that week I think. And it was somewhat of a chore. The sad thing was, hearing many of the songs individually, I was really thinking this was going to get in the fight for the top 5-10 at least. I paid $27 to import it. Somewhat of a waste.

What I ultimately feel about this record is, there's about en EP's worth of good music without the problems I experience listening to it in its entirety.

They're still a band I enjoy, and a very good live group. I certainly still enjoy Themata and some of this. And the show with Fair to Midland in the Spring I am excited to see. But I hate to say it, but this album ended being one of the biggest disappointments of the year.

Mind you, I still hope more people get into them and more people could and should enjoy them and this album. But for me, even beyond the expectations, this was a huge letdown of a studio record. "Set Fire to the Hive" and couple of the other tracks are still up there among the 'Vool's best songs, but until I get past those issues I posted above, this will always be a sophomore slump record to me.

Mastodon - Crack the Skye

"The Last Baron" is awesome. And the truth is I probably enjoy more than half of this album. But I think hype and expectations hurt it. It's 3.5 stars, and many people made it out to be their best work. Sort of in the Muse-disease. They haven't gotten over the hump. Baroness made a record at a similar level this year, but I guess my expectations weren't as high for that. I also think the vocals for this band, while not all that different than Burst or Baroness stylistically, kind of stick-out like a sore thumb at times. I feel like I'm hearing dumbed-down singing to be honest. And of course to mention Burst, I would rather just listen to them instead overall. They're gone, so that idea for new music may never happen again. I think Leviathan still remains their best work, but even that I don't feel is hardly at Burst's level.

Muse - The Resistance

Well at 1st I really was impressed here. And many other people were taking shots at how bombastic and silly the band have become. Trying to be over-the-top ego-maniacal and disgustingly pretentious. I felt the opposite; Muse put together a record that gave song after song that worked. Just not any classics.

Well I'm starting to believe the negative comments. I wasn't addicted to it. And it does feel a bit like they want to be in an arena..almost party-rock of a sort.

A disappointment..even with the Exogenesis orchestral suite. Although I will maintain that the criticism of it got a bit undeserved. But a band this talented, and a number of years in the writing/making, unlike dredg, I didn't find it really worth that wait. O well, their wait for classic-album status continues, if it ever happens. Look at the Mars Volta and Dream Theater. Both have low expectations but are starting to get better. Muse and some others may as well be given more time.

OneRepublic - Waking Up

I had no idea this was coming out. And while I'd hardly call this much of a disappointment, it did come across as being over-produced to a point. There were 3 or 4 nice songs on it regardless. But call me someone who isn't won-over by corporate-sounding pop music to the point I'd include in my top 50. Their debut album sounded fresh enough I guess to look past that. And the fact was, I knew them long before Timbaland gave them their 15 minutes of fame. O well, perhaps this record will do some growing in the coming years and I'll scratch my head a bit why I didn't listen to it more. But part of the problem with this is it came in at the 11th hour anyway. Had I heard this in July or April or something, it might have had a shot to place higher.

OSI - Blood
They have jumped the shark and become a sister-band to Kevin Moore. There's a lot of work that Kevin Moore has done I have enjoyed, but the way he's more or less hijacked this project pretty much has led it to my doghouse. If this were some new, different Chroma Key thing that Jim Matheos was playing on, while it wouldn't likely be an album finding my top 50, I'd at least respect what it is. Ambient music, more or less, which is a far cry from the material on the 1st record.

Other Lives - Other Lives

Better live. And I think the Kunek record "Flight of the Flynn's" is a more cohesive record. Still, enough talent here that I wish it would have been more addictive. Part of it is the mood it gives. Kind of slow and quiet. Epic in some ways. The truth is, there's at least 3 or 4 numbers on this that are really quite good. And the rest isn't horrible. But it's a bit of a sleepy record, and for that, it didn't demand replaying too much. I suppose over some time it may more, or at least what Other Lives do next is certainly worth looking forward to.

Pain of Salvation - Linoleum [EP]

A little too much Scarsick for me to get attached to this. The songs aren't horrible. The Scorpions cover is nice. I guess I'm a little too demanding of more from this band to place this higher. When Road Salt drops/leaks, how good this actually is may be seen more-so.

Paper Route - Absence

Their ep from 2008 "Are We All Forgotten" really showed a ton of promise. And while this album has a few good songs; it also included far too many cheesy frat-pop vocal-ed pieces. I guess my expectations were a bit too high for it. Are they Mute Math? I guess not. I suppose I'll keep an eye on them no matter as they do still put together some stuff worth hearing. And take Woven for example. Their 1st ep was nice, the debut full-length did not compare. But then the next ep and full-length both, were much better. Maybe they just stumbled a bit out of the gate. We'll see.

Phideaux - Number Seven
Not really a disappointment. It was much better than the recent releases from Big Elf and Beardfish. But it’s still prog, and the attempts at recreating 70’s style prog-rock, unless you’re Transatlantic (save for The Whirlwind), generally don’t find enough replaying time to warrant it. If it sniffed the top 50, the year in music would be rather dry.

Russian Circles - Geneva

Maybe a bit like OSI, they may never return to their debut album's quality. They have almost turned into a pure Post-Rock band. I do like this more than 2008's Station, for what that's worth. But Enter had something this and that album don't. Maybe just how well it flows, I'm not sure. I'd like to see Russian Circles reinvent themselves or at least blow me away again. It just hasn't happened again. Will it? I dunno. My level of interest in them is lower certainly, but at least Long Distance Calling, Shelter Red and East of the Wall are still around.

Scale the Summit - Carving Desert Canyons

Meh, Instrumental post-metal. Some hype before being named a replacement
for Progressive Nation 2009 in North America. And then after wards, a bit more undeserved hype. Some jazzy chops but overall I found very little melody or substance on this album. I suppose they score a tad higher than Animals as Leaders, given overall less hype, but that's really not saying much.

Stomacher - Sentimental Education
It's not In Reverent Fear. It sounds way too much like Radiohead, especially a good portion of the vocals. Kind of sad, IRF I kind of liked. They sort of fell into the trap Mt.Helium did I guess.

Shadow Gallery - Digital Ghosts

Well, it's progmetal. And while I still think this band has done far superior work than hordes of others in that style, this new record from them I can't say grabbed me too much. Is it due to Mike Baker's absence? partially yes. But I think the style overall has passed me by in many respects. Dream Theater and Soundscape released quality progmetal records this year; but overall there's so many cheesy, un-original bands doing it, the cheesy aspect of progmetal in general, just kills my interest. I guess I was reminded of that going back to ProgPowerUSA ln September. It's not my scene anymore. But comparably, I would not put this close to the Self-Titled (demo), Carved In Stone, Tyranny or even Room V. It just sounded rather rehash sadly. I'd still love to hear Gary Wehrkamp work with Mark Zonder someday in Alfa-Dog, but the odds of that happening seem almost zero.

St. Vincent - Actor

She's a lot better live. These songs got a bit too experimental for the sake-of. There is some decent writing in parts of this, but overall it didn't lend to repeated listenings even to what "Marry Me" did.

See her live. The studio work is in the doghouse.

3 - Revisions

A collection of older tunes. "Halloween," "Anyone Human," and "Rabid Animals," I believe were the highlights. But overall, this sounded more like 2nd-rate tunes from these guys. Kind of their "Black Like Sunday" I suppose. Was it a huge disappointment? no, but still given the fact I would put it below even "Summercamp Nightmare" it does go down as a miss.

Devin Townsend - Addicted
Devin Townsend - Ki

As I wrote about the guy on rym. The droney/sludgey guitars kill what is often pretty good music. Each of these albums I enjoyed some moments from, but too much of what he does gets in the way sadly. Because his talent level I don't question. Listen to "Life" or "Earth Day" for example.

Transatlantic - The Whirlwind

The result of this speaks to that they should have made a 3rd lp right after Bridge Across Forever. This is the 77-minute chore to get through as it sounds. Fillllller

Really fucking sad because their legacy was so great before this. Would I rather them never put out anything again? of course not. But had they gone the maudlin of the Well/Soundscape route, they'd have had demos and things from right after BaF to use. Instead, this came across as an extension of The Flower Kings overall. Some moments within, but not cohesive enough, not even the best moments compared to their earlier best moments. No "Motherless children, wandering nowhere" or "Full Moon Rising todayy ehhhhhh" really. No "We All Need Some Light" or incredible Beatles-ish tributes like "Suite:Charlotte Pike."

C'mon guys!..If they make another, of course I'll listen. But if they never come close to their 1st 2 albums, I will chalk it down to the ole lightning-in-a-bottle idea. Their peak may have past and may never return sadly. O well.


nicoli.2 said...

I don't usually forward Bob Lefsetz's letters to anyone, mostly because the guy is the epitome of everyone's worst music critic nightmare and a bitter asshole, but since you mentioned your disappointment in Imogen Heap's latest release, I thought I'd give you these links. I think they sort of explain why the album sounds like a retry of her first.

Imogen Heap - 8/10/09

More Imogen Heap - 8/14/09

More From Amanda [Palmer] - 8/15/09

Media Reviews said...

I Megaphone? hmm..I might go over to the Immi forum and see if anyone has mentioned those articles.

I'm not sure if it was a "retry" or a repeated attempt to make I Megaphone nor Speak For Yourself. If anything, it was intentionally trying to be different, at least from SFY. As an artist, I think the one's who end up repeating their last work find they can fall into larger criticism and regrets.

I guess I think she tried to bring in a lot more styles, that the songs and qualities of other music ended up being left out.

Ellipse to me just comes across as a mellow, sleepy record at times.

Those articles knocking her about all the time she spent on promoting/marketing it (on youtube which I didn't notice a referenced in there actually) might be valid to a point. If you see them, she was constantly worrying about other things that weren't involving the songs. And the aongs seemed like a chore at times to work on. I'm not sure if that's the best way for an artist to work. Inspiration rather than obligation you know.

nicoli.2 said...

My mistake...I meant "Speak For Yourself," thought that was her first album. I need to check up on my discography. Sorry for the confusion! :-P