Washed Out – Within and Without
Ernest Greene has made the age-old mistake most sophomore slumps make – he has focused too hard on form, and not on content. Abandoning the sharp pop of the impressive Life of Leisure EP for a bland, boring follow-up, Greene has created a sleepytime comp, but not in a good way.
Tyler the Creator – Goblin
Never since the invention of the good ol’ Internet/blog hype machine has an artist been so lauded and built up to impossible expectations, only to release an irredeemably bad album and lose all that praise. I mean, man. What a terrible record. No one has fallen harder than Tyler the Creator. At least, not yet.
The Strokes – Angles
This album is a giant mess, with the exception of exactly three songs. Possibly worse than not living up to hype (see above) is watching an established band return after a long hiatus and produce what is arguably their worst effort yet. We all know the first two can’t be beaten, but it would’ve been nice to see these guys try.
Radiohead – The King of Limbs
It is apparent that, well inside their comfort zone, Radiohead have settled into trading in hooks for ambient experimentation and a lack of depth or cohesion. There is nothing memorable here; the group phoned it in for their first mediocre album since Pablo Honey. Perhaps this is a transformative period, and we can all look back and laugh at this stepping stone record.
REM – Collapse Into Now
At least Radiohead was progressive – most REM albums are always claimed to be a “back to basics” or “return to form,” but this time it’s for real. Unfortunately, Stipe, Mills, and Buck forgot to bring the sharp melody and memorable kick back from 1995, and the result is somewhat dated and underwhelming.
James Blake – S/T
This is a noble debut from an up-and-comer; it shows promise, warts and all. Apparently the critics didn’t notice most of the album is not necessarily songs, but experimental sound and structureless production. Maybe in the future Blake can rein it in and produce an album worthy of all the praise it’s getting.
Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
I guess I’m missing something here, but the sheer uninspired tone of boredom Vile likes to deliver his songs in is just grating to me. I don’t pretend to understand why this album has received the unjust praise it’s received.
Foster the People – Torches
It’s Maroon 5 trying to replicate the hits of MGMT. It’s repetitive. Its success is uncanny and undeserved. “Pumped Up Kicks” is the prime example for an album of one-note structure beating you in the head until it’s stuck in your brain. Just because you can’t stop singing it doesn’t mean it’s good.
Juliana Barwick – The Magic Place
I have to give credit here – what Barwick has tried is pretty creative. The main instrument here is layers of Barwick’s haunting voice, and the result is original and intriguing. Unfortunately, it’s also frankly boring, especially for an entire album.
Bon Iver – S/T
There’s just not enough here to warrant the praise this sophomore slump has been receiving. I feel this is a transitional album, that Vernon just needs to get his creative juices flowing again, instead of letting the celebrity status take control and half-ass a disc that only picks up on the last two tracks.