And so we come to that point in the year, list week is upon us. The musical calandar goes from December until December, and thus it is in the first week of December that most music journalists compile their year and decide upon what was fantastic and what was awful.
This year, I’ve decided to start with what I’ve not really liked, just so we can get all the people complaining about me not liking their favourite records out of the way early, then we can focus on what I’ve loved.
To clarify, the higher the ranking on the list, the worse/bigger disappointment the record in my eyes. Furthermore, just because I’ve raved about certain things earlier in the year, doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll love them now. Records change over time and their affect does the same thing.
Okay. Here we go.
Babel – Mumford and Sons
Talk about a backflip. This is one of those records that I so wanted to love, and man, I so did for a while. After the eighth or ninth listen however, it began to hit me that this record wasn’t doing all the things I wanted it to be doing. Where I thought it was exciting me and delivering new concepts, it wasn’t. At all. It comes in at the 15th most disappointing album of the year.
Born and Raised – John Mayer
I really wanted this to be my album of the year. It had been a couple of years since he’d released anything, and instead he turned country. Not in the good way either. In the vegetables and apricots kind of way. The record was contrive
d, it was meant to be seen as some kind of homage to his past and a reincarnation of his musical self. Instead it was a dull foray into the unimaginative.
Hot Chip are one of those bands that I’ve loved since I first heard them. Fresh dance beats made them a safe choice when people asked me what to play at most parties towards the end of high school. I wouldn’t play their new record however. The tracks have cool hooks that are just dragged on for too long making them lose the appeal they start with. Could have been great, it wasn’t.
Channel Orange – Frank Ocean
This is where I could get some hate. This record has been raved about by more or less every single music publication that has some shred of respect. I guess that’s why I can’t rate it as highly. This year has been massive for the hybrid of soul, funk, rap and hip-hop that is modern RnB, and Ocean when compared to his contemporaries just seems to lack any of the pzazz that they have. Kendrick Lamar has smooth lyrics, Karriem Riggins has the best hip-hop and beats compilation out this year. Ocean just doesn’t rate against these chaps and has disappointed us.
Six months ago, if you had have asked me how excited I was about a new collection of songs from the kings of piano rock the answer would have been ‘tres excited’. If you’d asked me how excited I was to see them perform all of my favourite old tracks from the 90s along with what were, no doubt, set to be massive hits at Harvest Festival this year, the answer was set to be, once again, ‘tres excited’. If you’d asked me after I heard The Sound of the Life of the Mind how excited I was by the record and hence to see the band live, the answer was set to be ‘Je ne suis pas excited’. The record was laboured, there was none of the lovable melody nor lyrical charm that the first few records had. If this was The Sound of the Life of the Mind, the mind it sounded like was that grey pleb of an accountant who you always attempt to avoid conversations with. The record was clinical in the most negative sense of the word.
The Presets brought out a rockin’ record just a few years ago in the form of Apocalypso, an Australian number one record which saw airplay worldwide. ‘My People’ was blaring in European clubs for years after it was released. When they release this, their third record, it would be logical to expect a similarly great record from a band who have matured even further. You’d be expecting wrongly. Pacifica is a record you think has legs upon your first few listens yet quickly loses them towards the end. Forgettable is the word.
I loved the first record by the other notable southern rock group, the first being Kings of Leon. Tracks like the “The First Song” and “The Funeral” were grand, epics that washed over you like a wave. Then along came what I like to call “The Killers Syndrome” – that is to say that every album after their first was disappointing. Mirage Rock was no exception with even lead single “Knock Knock” lacking any of the excitement that the first record managed to capture within me. As I said in my review, I really hope it was actually a mirage and that it just never happened.
Museum – Ball Park Music
Another triple J band that fell short. Look, you can more or less appropriate the sentiments for Mirage Rock here and have a fair and unbiased take on the record. Museum was a proving ground for Ball Park Music who didn’t quite pass the test in that the only memorable track came in the form of “Surrender” a jangly pop track that promised so much but delivered so little. The first album was ready made for festivals where as
Museum is only really for die hard fans.
Broken Brights – Angus Stone
Another Stone album, another boring release. There isn’t much to say here as Angus Stone did what both of the stone siblings do, both alone and together, over a hideously drawn out record that started lost and ended up even loster. I won’t dawdle here for too long as the next album on the list is unsurprising, but resonates with the same points.
By the Horns – Julia Stone
Another stone album, another – no I won’t just copy and paste. Here’s the “how to“ guide for Julia’s record.
- Take one heaped ladle of all previously released ‘Stone’ records
- Add one vocal goat
- Remove any trace of balls or gusto
- Sprinkle with mediocrity
Presto! You have By the Horns!
Coexist – The XX
If I haven’t already lost you, here’s where I start to lose friends. I really tried to love Coexist, I tried so hard. I listened to it over and over and even at play number six or seven I still couldn’t bring myself to love it. Please don’t get me wrong when I talk of my disdain for this album, their self titled effort comes in at one of my favourite records ever and, indeed, Coexist does capture what I loved about it. It still maintains that dark, lusty feel that makes them an undeniably sexy band. Even if her chin is…well. What went wrong was that every track sounded empty and identical. I get that that’s their thing and the silence is all a part of what they’re trying to achieve but sometimes you need more than one perfectly toned guitar in a track. Nice production though, kudos Jamie XX, shame it was a dull record.
San Cisco – San Cisco
At the beginning of this year, I was loving San Cisco in a big way. They were poppy without being insufferable, they were shamelessly indie without trying to hard and they were undeniably fun. Both of their EPs, Golden Revolver and Awkward were spot on in terms of their execution with their irresistible “la da da da”s and their superb covers (bangin’ rendition of Arctic Monkeys hit “505”). Then they released their album and proved to be out of tricks. San Cisco tries to be more than it is. It tries for that ethereal sense of Beach House and the shameless dancey indie of Darwin Deez but ultimately creates a half-baked record that probably needed another year’s worth of production. The songs don’t really feel full or complete in any respect. They needed to push the release date back and head back to the drawing board. 2013 may have been the year for this record, but not 2012. Relax guys, the world wasn’t going to end before you put your album out.
In A Million Years – Last Dinosaurs
I mustn’t be very good at my job. Until early this year I’d never even heard of Last Dinosaurs, and to be honest I probably wouldn’t mind that much I never did. That being said, I liked the single that I was shown and hence I felt as though I could give it a proper go as an album. Boy was I wrong. By the end of my first listen I was completely and utterly underwhelmed. There are two gems amongst the twelve or so tracks of filler – “Andy” and “Zoom”. Boys, see what I said about San Cisco and change ‘San Cisco’ to ‘Last Dinosaurs’, the record needed longer to be conceptualised.
Battle Born – The Killers
Shock horror! The album I gave my lowest ever score, whilst I still did scores, isn’t the lowest album on the list. The Killers are a band I’m not so fond of as they promise more than they are. They come out with all of this gusto and pzazz and say “Look at us! Desert rock!” when in reality their painfully bland pop music never progressed past “Mr Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me”. “Runaways” feels like a b-side to a Eurythmics and Savage Garden collaboration that was ultimately rejected. And when that’s the record’s strongest track, you know there are problems.
And so we come to my least favourite album of this year. And it’s one that a lot of people have really raved about. Maybe I just don’t get it, but number one is…
My Head is an Animal – Of Monsters and Men
I can already see Phil at Capricorn Records Warrnambool grinning from ear to ear.
This is one record whose appeal I just don’t understand. At all. From beginning to end of my first listen of this album, way back in the half of this year, all I felt was anger. Anger that they were being compared to Arcade Fire. Anger that they were people’s only reason to go to Laneway. Anger that people had the nerve to say they were the best band to come out of Iceland. I’ve got news for you, Sigur Ros are from Iceland and have had a firm grip on that title for some time now!
If I go through their hit “Little Talks” I’ll be able to properly identify everything about them that I just can’t stand. We’re greeted immeadiately with a misused accordian and brass hook which is shamelessly repeated fo
r the entire track, simply repeating the vocal melody. It’s accompanied by the shouts of a massive crowd of people, did someone say gimmick? They shouted it. Oh look, now a girl with a pretty voice like a goat is going to sing for us – Julia Stone, you’ve got company. You know, maybe I can grow to like this voice. It suits the song .Oh wait, you’ve gone and paired it shamelessly with a male voice doing a completely unoriginal line for line take on the track. I think I’m gonna throw up it’s so audaciously cutesy. Listen to that swelling bass drum, oh and the voices come together for the last line of the verse to make harmonies. Lovely.
I was only one minute in then! And I already found that much to dislike! There’s no gusto or belief behind this! No balls! Music needs balls! What is it worth if it isn’t trying to say something?
If someone wants to try and explain this record to me, feel free.
You know what, I can’t even do justice as to how much I dislike the rest of this record, have a recipe for dip instead.
How To Make Hummus
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
- 1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
- 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
- 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Serve immediately with fresh, warm or toasted pita bread, or cover and refrigerate.
For a spicier hummus, add a sliced red chile or a dash of cayenne pepper.
Hummus can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and can be kept in the freezer for up to one month. Add a little olive oil if it appears to be too dry.