A recent NBC/WSJ poll revealed 76% of Americans consider 2011 to be a “below average” year or “one of the worst” in their lives. Certainly times are tough in the world. Obama is a lame duck, and the competing Republicans are clinically insane adulterers and fundamentalists. The economy remains on the brink of collapse; Congress is a brainless, yelling mob of idiocy. REM broke up. Limp Bizkit got back together.
Musically speaking, do I consider 2011 to be a disappointing year overall? Not really, but I don’t consider it to be a revelatory one either. So I’m indifferent. That said, as is the case with every year, 2011 had its share of disappointments. Maybe in these five cases, my expectations were set unreasonably high. But for at least a couple, I don’t think that’s the situation; some of these albums just flat-out suck.
Radiohead – King of Limbs
This is a good album. Not a great one. And when it comes to Radiohead, “great” is the caliber the world expects. Perhaps that’s unfair, but it’s realistic. It took them a while, but they finally churned out a dud. Is it challenging? Yes. Is it ambitious? Absolutely. Does it sound forced, lost, sometimes even lazy? Unfortunately, but definitely. I look forward to hearing the next great transformation in the sound of Radiohead, because this was obviously a stumbling transition of some sort.
Tyler the Creator – Goblin
It’s incredible how one album can utterly silence an excited mob. Count me as one of the many who saw Odd Future at SXSW, on Jimmy Fallon, and was psyched to hear Tyler’s new solo outing. With the exception of “Yonkers” this is a complete mess from start to finish. It is patently offensive in an auditory, not lyrical, sense. The real disgust lies not within the misogynistic, homophobic verses, but the tuneless, boring dreck that surrounds them. Unlistenable.
Washed Out – Within and Without
Speaking of boring….I guess I should have seen this one coming. Abandoning the fun, infectious, danceable influence evident on the excellent Life of Leisure EP, Ernest Greene conjured up a full-length full of mood, but absolutely nothing that stands out.
The Strokes – Angles
That dreadful, thrown-together album cover says it all, doesn’t it? How bummed were you after hearing this all the way through for the first time? What a sinking feeling. Exactly three tracks here are great, even if they’re not exactly progressive. The rest is uncharacteristically confused. The listener feels the same way the band probably did after finishing this: what?
Justice – Audio Video Disco
It’s generally expected when you take four years to make a follow-up to a critically acclaimed debut, that means you’re taking some risks, trying some new things, and the result will be an interesting one. That’s exactly what Justice did. In fact, that’s all they did. Going the way of MGMT, there’s very little here that sounds even remotely like the 2007 French house duo that isn’t Daft Punk. More prog than anything else, Audio Video Disco throws a lot of spaghetti at the wall, and almost none of it sticks. Props for changing the formula, but I would have preferred a simple Cross Part 2.