The Year in Review :: Part Two: Vilification

In which indierocket! editor Patrick takes on the year’s biggest disappointments and biggest stinkers. More...

A Place to Bury Strangers, A Place to Bury Strangers (Pimp City)
Don’t believe the blog hype. Total Jesus and Mary Chain ripoff.

Arcade Fire, Neon Bible (Merge)
Whereas Funeral was an outstandingly cathartic meditation on death and the hereafter, Neon Bible is too much of a Born in the U.S.A. carbon copy. Sure, Win Butler’s still one of the better songwriters in indie rock, but there’s too much morass here (see “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations,” “My Body is a Cage,” the title track), which drags down the stellar moments (see “Intervention,” “Keep the Car Running”).

Band of Horses, Cease to Begin (Sub Pop)
Just because a record is disappointing doesn’t mean that it’s automatically bad. Au contraire: Cease to Begin is a fine record, far from a sophomore slump, applying a Southern spit-and-polish to the majestic Northwestern grandeur of Everything All the Time. But I said Ben Bridwell would miss Mat Brooke, and I was right — despite the addition of Columbia keybanger extraordinaire Ryan Monroe, Cease to Begin suffers from a ritualistic sameness, not from song to song, but within the songs themselves. While Everything All the Time relied heavily on pristine builds and emotional catharsis, Cease to Begin is too pristine, too precious and a little too tedious.

Bloc Party, A Weekend in the City (Vice)
Now this is a sophomore slump record. Was Kele Okereke too concerned about the rumours that he likes getting buggered by geezers to write good songs?

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Some Loud Thunder (Wichita)
What did I say two years ago? Clap Your Hands Say Meh? I hate to say “I told you so” ... wait, no I don’t. I fucking told you so.

Deerhunter, Cryptograms (Kranky)
Don’t believe the blog hype, part two. Yet another begulingly Pitchfork-loved record that's no good, yet people went absolutely ape-poopy over it. Why?

Lavender Diamond, Imagine Our Love (Rough Trade)
Don’t believe the blog hype, part three. More boring than watching baseball.

The Mars Volta, The Bedlam in Goliath (Universal)
How does one say “Just stop it!” in Spanish?

M.I.A., Kala (XL)
This is what I wrote about Arular back in 2005: “oh, i'm sorry. i didn't realize "galang" was the indonesian word for 'shit.' it's as if every single genre ever known to man took a giant shit into a pot, and said, 'lo, this, too, is music!' it's not. it's the densest, most inaccessible piece of crap i've ever listened to. the only reason indie kids like it is because they think they should, because no one else gets it.” Kala is even worse, taking the worst parts of genres I both love (baile funk, electronica) and loathe (dancehall, dub, dirty house) and turning into an unintelligible mush of yelps, squawks and rattles. Sure, perhaps it’s one of those albums that I’ll never “get,” but that’s what this list is about, innit?

Minus the Bear, Planet of Ice (Suicide Squeeze)
One of Minus the Bear’s strong points has always been its temporary-yet-fleet-footed diversions into King Crimson prog. (See “Women We Haven’t Met Yet,” “Let’s Play Guitar in a Five Guitar Band,” basically all of They Make Beer Commercials Out of This.) But Planet of Ice’s downfall is its all-to-frequent excursions into bloated Floydian butt-prog. An underwhelming record from an extraordinary band with a nigh-impeccable track record.

Panda Bear, Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)
Admittedly, I’ve never been able to get into freak-folk. But after seeing this record top so many year-end lists — including the one penned by our dear indierocket! comrade Tug — I wanted to like this. But it just seems like paint-by-numbers ‘60s psychedelia a la The Beach Boys.

Pelican, City of Echoes (Hydra Head)
Disappointing only because Pelican is one of my favorite bands, and City of Echoes just isn’t up to the bar-setting snuff of The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw.

Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight (Warner Bros.)
At least Jenny Lewis is still hot.

The Rosebuds, Night of the Furies (Merge)
This hurts. I love The Rosebuds, both as a band and as people; Ivan Howard possesses one of my all-time favorite voices, and Kelly Howard is a keyboard-mashing looker with no peer. But Night of the Furies is bogged down in end-of-the-dance-party melancholy, willful hook-freedom, cheeseball-synth string arrangements and unusually flaccid songwriting. While I reiterate that not all disappointing records are bad — and Night of the Furies is by no means bad — they’re disappointments for a reason. What was wrong with being a garage band people could dance to, guys? Why go all Smiths-via-Human League on us?

Smashing Pumpkins, Zeitgeist (Martha’s Music/Reprise)
You all know how I feel about this. Worst record of the year.

Wilco, Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch)
Anyone who says Sky Blue Sky is their favorite Wilco record is either a Nels Cline fanboy, a dad-rock apologist or a fucking liar. Sky Blue Sky isn’t bad, just boring, content to twiddle around with flat, second-rate ‘70s soft-rock songwriting. Still, “Impossible Germany” is one of the year’s finest guitar-driven songs, and Sky Blue Sky is at least better than A Ghost is Born.

Amy Winehouse, Back to Black (Republic)
There’s a web site devoted to taking bets on Amy Winehouse’s date of death for a reason. Even rehab couldn’t save this trainwreck.

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