Monday, December 19, 2005

2005 Recap, Part 2, Disappointments and Surprises

I feel like this year, more than any other, I was disappointed by a number of albums that I was really looking forward to, so I thought a section about disappointments would make a worthy addition to my Year in Review series of posts.

Disappointments:

1) Daft Punk - Human After All - 2001's Discovery is one of my all-time favorite albums, 1997's Homework was one of the first electronic albums I ever bought and is the only one from that era that I still listen to regularly, so my expectations were rather high for the long-awaited third album this year. Suffice it to say, I was shocked when I finally heard it. For an album that was four years in the making, it sounded surprisingly rushed and unfinished, plus many of the songs sounded like rehashes of Daft Punk songs from years' past. My anger is not as strong as it was when I first reviewed this album, so I'm going to give them a mulligan here. Daft Punk revealed that they actually were "human after all" (teehee) by making a very mediocre album, but I expect all the negative press will whip their butts back into shape and get them to make their next album so good that we all forget this ever happened.

2) Weezer - Make Believe - Now, maybe I'm in the minority here, but I really liked Maladroit and when I heard some of the demos that were being considered as possible songs for this album, I got really excited. Unfortunately, two years on and off in the studio combined with Rivers heading back to Harvard derailed this album, making it Weezer's worst-to-date by a longshot. Maybe I've just grown out of them, but this does not like the same band who recorded brilliant back-to-back albums in the mid-90s. I think Weezer's time in the sun may be over, Rivers just has nothing new to contribute as a songwriter and what is he writing just keeps getting worse and worse. They should stop now before they forever taint their legacy.

3) Coldplay - X&Y - I loved Coldplay back in 2000 when Parachutes came out and continued to love them through A Rush of Blood to the Head, but I started to worry a bit when I noticed that Rush didn't have nearly the same staying power as Parachutes did. I found myself tiring of the album very quickly and not really ever feeling the desire to put it on the old stereo. X&Y continue Coldplay's decline, and yet somehow they've gotten even more famous than they were before because of it. I'm not going to go off on a Coldplay rant, because they're not an awful band, they're just extremely overrated. This album had some highpoints like "Talk," "Fix You" and the meant-for-Johnny Cash "Kingdom Come," but so much of it sounded like retreads of old Coldplay songs (see "Speed of Sound") and there weren't any songs that had the power of "Clocks" or the emotion of "Don't Panic." I'm sure Coldplay will continue to release mediocre albums for many years and maintain their popularity, but this is probably the last one that I buy.

4) Beck - Guero - Beck makes this list for a combined disappointing album/live performance. His short, unspired concert at the Patriot Center this fall was one of the only shows I saw this year where I felt like I just didn't get my money's worth, and Guero was maybe the worst of Beck's career to date. Until now Beck had made a career of redefining himself (disco on Midnite Vultures, acoustic ballads on Sea Change) a la David Bowie, but on this one, he seemed to want to make an album that summed everything to date up into a nice little package. Unfortunately, at least in my humble opinion, he failed quite miserably. Guero really is a pretty decent album, but it just is not nearly up to the standard that Beck has shown us he can produce albums at. Also, the surprise of "what will the next album be like?" has always kept me on my toes, and frankly, I found myself a little bored with this one. Been there, done that, c'mon Beck, get back in there and give us something new, and hopefully you haven't hit the wall like Bowie did in the early 80s.

Pleasant Surprise

Return to "Goodness" - Exciter, ULTRA, Heathen Chemistry, Republic, Get Ready. What do those five albums have in common? They can all be found in your local record store's used bin. I swear, go check right now, they'll all be in there, and they're also the last few albums from Depeche Mode, Oasis and New Order. All three bands released albums this year that proved that they can still, in fact, write good songs and play good music. None will likely ever return to the hey-days of their careers, but given where they were at one time or another, it'd be almost impossible to ask of them. Playing the Angel, Don't Believe The Truth and Waiting For the Sirens' Call at least gave me hope that old favorites can still give me some good tunes that remind me of the old days instead of covering my ears and begging for those days.

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