In no particular order. These albums aren’t necessarily bad, but they should have been much better. 50 Cent’s “Curtis” isn’t here because, frankly, I didn’t have high expectations for it in the first place.
1. Common, “Finding Forever.” Lots of folks swear by Common, but to me he’s rarely been more exciting than a bath, and that’s at his best on joints like “I Used to Love H.E.R.” and “Bitch in You.” His last album, Be, had good Kanye beats and a few catchy pop songs like “Go,” but there wasn’t much meat there. He tries so hard to be likable that his message has all the meaning of a candy cane. Sure, it tastes good and looks nice, but after you’re done all you’re left with is a sugar high. Sometimes he’s creative, often he’s familiar, and he gets points for not stooping to the lowest common denominator, but I’ve never understood what about him is so great that Jay-Z had to name-check him and Ice Cube bothered to battle him.
Instead Buy: Blue Scholars: Bayani. It’s got all the lyricism critics seem to find in Common, and all the wit, but none of the sentimentality.
The Distance-Blue Scholars
2. Rilo Kiley, “Under the Blacklight.” I’m not a huge fan of this band’s albums, but their earlier work includes some inspiring and brilliant singles. Usually, I can count on at least four really, really good songs on each Rilo Kiley record. Up until now. As for “Under the Blacklight,” diehards should be saddened by the brevity (it’s under 37 minutes) and the fact that, although a few of the songs do pop, it’s lyrically pedantic and musically unsurprising. New listeners will not be attracted, either, because there’s no clear singles. It took them this long to come up with an album that sounds like B-Sides and outtakes?
Instead Buy: The Parkas:Put Your Head In The Lion’s Mouth or Bat for Lashes: Fur and Gold. Two much better somewhat cerebral, obtuse pop albums. (Parkas Review)
Change of Heart-Parkas.
3. The Dead 60s, “Time to Take Sides.” Expecting another rollicking joyride like their last album, I instead got watered-down, studio-exec friendly Clash-lite. Looks like success spoiled them. Dead 60s, meet Jet. Discuss.
Instead Buy: Bedouin Soundclash: Street Gospels. Solid whiteboy ska with all the international flavor of The Clash.
Jealousy and the Get Free-Bedouin Soundclash
Or: The Cops: Free Electricity. Uncommercial, confrontational punk rock from a band that toured with The Hold Steady.
It’s Epidemic-The Cops
Terrible Empty Pockets-The Cops
4. The New Pornographers, “Challengers.” I’m a huge fan of their earlier work, loved AC’s solo record, and enjoyed (but didn’t go ga ga over) Neko’s solo albums. This album? Feh. There’s a clear lack of the catchy pop that hooked me into their earlier work and made their more experimental songs acceptable. Album by album, both the Pornos and Neko’s solo works get progressively worse. I really cannot understand why so many folks put this record on their top 10s.
Instead Buy: The White Rabbits: Fort Nightly. Experimental pop with some jangly hooks. (Review)
White Rabbits: Kid on My Shoulders
White Rabbits: The Plot
5. M.I.A., “Kala.” This is more of an overrated album than a disappointing one. It’s not horrible, just mediocre, but so was her first (and this is nowhere near as good as her first, which had some really good singles, but on the whole the center did not hold). The folks I see digging M.I.A. generally dislike American hip hop and praise M.I.A. up and down for sounding global. If that’s what you want, check out Me’Shell.
Instead Buy: Meshell Ndegeocello: The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams.
(Major label-No samples.)
6. Feist, “The Reminder.” This is another one that lots of critics and bloggers got all wet for, but I can’t understand that if any of them heard any of her earlier albums, all of which are not good but are, in fact, excellent. Feist’s major label debut is exactly what you’d expect from a contracted release: Soulless, toothless, and completely lacking in adventure.
Instead Buy: Julie Doiron: Woke Myself Up. Sadly, this LP is out of print. But you can still find it.
No More-Julie Doiron
8. Interpol, “Our Love to Admire.” Each Interpol album is regressively like the one before it, more watered down and less innovative. It’s like listening to a copy of a tape that was a copy of a tape.
Instead Buy: The Editors: The End Has a Start.
9. The Good, the Bad and The Queen, “Self Titled.” Fans of The Clash and The Gorillaz rejoiced! A new project would combine members of both bands, and the title promised a good mix of politics and grit. Together, this supergroup managed to do what I never thought would have possible: They were boring.
Instead Buy: Carbon/Silicon: The Last Post. I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet, but if it’s anything like the singles they’ve been throwing up on the internet all year long, it’s frickin’ awesome.
Total Fucking Madness-C/S