The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve saw a great number of disappointing follow ups. The New York Football Giants followed up a 2011 (well, February 2012) Super Bowl by failing to qualify for the playoffs. The Republican Party followed up John McCain with the somehow less inspiring, less exciting Mitt Romney to the somehow less surprising effect of another failed presidential bid. Showtime followed up a very successful season one for some show called Homeland which was critically acclaimed but watched by less than 2 million Americans because, lets be honest, no one gets Showtime with a second season of a show called Homeland which was widely panned as being no longer critically acclaimed and was viewed by the same 2 million or so people because, lets be honest– NO ONE get Showtime.
Music, in the year 2012, made no exception to the general rule of rather uninspired, if not downright insipid follow ups. I noticed this, most specifically, via personal experience, as anticipated album after anticipated album which I purchased or otherwise listened to failed to meet the expectations which the previous efforts of the artists I follow had built.
Lets take a look at the disappointments that permeated music listening in 2012 in the following format:
Who it is that disappointed. What do we know about them, and what do we wish we knew.
The Build Up
Here we will examine the bands previous effort or efforts which have built the expectations which are then torn asunder by. . .
The album which shattered all our hopes and dreams for the bands which we love or loved by being less awesome than we expected.
So, without ado I present to you, the disappointments of 2012:
The Band: Say Anything
Fronted by troubled lyricist Max Bemis, Say Anything started building indie cred and following somewhere around the turn of the millenium. The band is build on Bemis’ witty, somewhat homo-erotic, scathingly “punk” but deeply sweat lyrics backed by your typical pop/emo guitar and drums music.
The Build Up: Say Anything Self Titled
In 2009, Say Anything perfected the formula which brought them to notoriety with their self titled album. The album was a masterpiece track by track. Opening with accoustic backing before the electric guitars and synthesizers kick in “Fed to Death” hits the pseudo-religious/sacriligious irony which has been a trademark of the band in a perfect minute 36– just enough time to not need to repeat anything. The second track, the single for the release, “Hate Everyone” maintains its wit, while calling back The Clash in tone yet being uniquely Say Anything.
From here the album gets better. “Do Better” features pizzacotto strings over hand clapping beats which Bemis uses to weave a self-effacating psalm to failure and unrealized potential. “Less Cute” tells a story of love-lost regret and loathing about ex-lovers new lovers with jazzy horns weaving seemlessly into the guitars driving need, settling in for the settling. “Eloise” is a ballad only the sardonic hipster could write. “Crush’d” is the best song the bad has ever written– sweat and endearing opening the world of love and expectation and desire and laying it all bare to the world in the admittance of a crush.
“She Won’t Follow You” follows on the band’s 2005 song “Admit It” in its sing-spoken verses and scathing, angry verses and catchy half shouted-half whispered chorus. “Cemetary” softens the tone with another accoustic intro, organ sounding keys, and female backing vocals on the inane/unforgetable/repetitively perfect refrain (your in my body, your your in my body, your in my body that’s where I think about you). “Death for my Birthday” takes a new spin on the story-fable song about wanting to die and aging and wanting to live. “Young and Dumb and Stung” rumbles with bass and synth sinister and spiteful in all the right ways. The album closes with the perfect kind of outro-track in “Ahhh. . . Men””.
While there are a few less than perfect tracks (“Mara and Me”, “Property”) the awesomeness of this album can be easily illustrated by the fact that no less than 5 tracks (“Hate Everyone”, “Do Better”, “Less Cute”, “Crush’d”, and “Cemetary”) were chosen for the bands 14 track Greatest Hits leaving only 9 tracks to distribute between the first 9 years of the bands existence.
The Disappointement: Anarchy, My Dear
Anarchy, My Dear is a decent album. The opening track “Burn a Miracle” is a really good song, and a great opener. It was pre-released before the album by a month in early 2012 on youtube with a clever lyrics bouncing around animated video which works great for this band which is built on the strength of the clever lyrics. The thought that this might be a lesser track on the album only increased hopes that it was a second masterpiece.
From there the album goes downhill. While we’ve come to expect, accept, and cherish even some of the off things Bemis sings about, “Say Anything” a song named after the band simply goes too far to too little effect “I’d condemn my race to genocide. . .anything for you you (oh oh oh) do anything for you”. “Night Song” is decent, but seems to drag one four bars too long in each and every phase of the song, and its highlight is the first 15 seconds of a 25 second guitar break two minutes into the song, while the last 45 seconds are thrown away on an extended and incredibly uninteresting outtro.
“Admit It Again” by contrast is simply awful. It is derivitive in its name, its content, and attempts very hard to recall the sucess that the bands earlier song accomplished. . . “Don’t wanna hear about how the latest Rihanna single is a post-modern masterpiece– stop punishing me”, “well my momma didn’t raise no fool– god my blood boils at the thought of you, poseur die!” “And the crap rains down. . .x6”. Its a symbol of a band trying so hard to still be indie and off beat and anti-establishment when the music and ideaology they represent has become so on-beat and establishment it smacks of the worst excesses of the hipsterism it pretends to rail against. Everyone knows only poseurs have to say “poseur die!”
The rest of the album comes through as mostly forgettable. Only the title track resembles anything of a stand out. Critical reviews bear out that this was a lesser effort, coming in at 66/100 on Metacritic a full 10 points lower than the Self-titled 76/100 average. Certainly not a bad album, worth listening to if you are a fan of the band, but ultimately, in comparison disappointing.
The Band: Motion City Soundtrack
Another pop-punk rock band that started just before the year 2000 (with a 7 inch release coming in 1999), Motion City Soundtrack found prominance in 2005 with their album Commit this to Memory with its incessant single “Everything is Alright”, and the perfect drinking yourself into oblivian anthem “L.G.F.U.A.D” (Lets get fucked up and die).
The Build Up: My Dinosaur Life
In 2010 MCS release My Dinosaur Life which charted at number 15 on the billboard top 100, one place ahead of 2007’s Even if It Kills Me. “Its been a good year, a good new beginning. . . I’ve been a good little worker bee, I deserve a Goooold star” the album kicks off, with the track “Worker Bee” then barrels forward into a swift tempo reminder of why we loved this band in 2005, complete with a sound that could remind you of a bee singing along in the background if you let it. The album too, barrels ahead with a great line up of catchy hooks “I thik I can can figure it out but I’m gun na need a little help to get throguh it” on “Life Less Ordinary (Need a Little Help), and memorable riffs and intro (the drum stick clacking of “Delirium”.
“Her Words Destroyed my Planet” is paced slower than almost any other song in MCS’s catelog, but it has you hooked from when lead vocalist Justin Pierre intones “I fell asleep watching Veronica Mars again” on. The verses are clever, and the chorus is powerful “If we’d only stayed together, I might not have fallen apart. But the Words you Said Destroyed my planet, I stal before I start . . . anything at all.”
“Disappear” somehow, by contrast feels faster, harder, roguher than what you expect from this band, stretching them out tonally in a way that holds attention and brings you further in. “History Lesson” revels in defiance “Its not my goddamn history” Pierre huffs over splashing cymbols. “Stand Too Close” echoes the best of “L.G.F.U.A.D.” musically, while driving forward with cleverly sacharine lyrics. “Pulp Fiction” is the best trail-led lyrically connecting song since Third Eye Blind’s “Tatoo of the Sun”.
While the album trails off from there, the remaining tracks are all solid, driven and catchy if not as memorable as “Pulp Fiction” or “Stand Too Close”.
The Disappointment: Go
I won’t go into this album track by track. In fact, I can’t. There’s not a single bad track on the album. Some of them could be catchy if you really subjected yourself to them often enough. What the album lacks, however, is the song that is so catchy the first time you hear it that you have to listen again. In the first weeks of June after its release listening to this album. I wanted so bad to love it. I wanted so bad for this album to displace My Dinosaur Life and Commit This to Memory from my playlists and my heart. One day I listened to Go five times in a row. Sadly, today when I started working on this article (this may of course be yesterday by the time I finish this article) I could not remember one single track off Go. I truely believe in this band, and I can only imagine that in 2014 when they release another album as good as we know they can I will love it again, but Go was mearly disappointing.
The Metacritic review data doesn’t bear this out as pointedly as with Say Anything’s efforts, rating Go only 2 points on average lower than My Dinosaur Life, however the opinion of the Alternative Press seems pertinant in this case– Alternative Press rated Go 80 points (June 12th, 2012) while they gave My Dinosaur Life a full 100 points saying, “Motion City Soundtrack have made the best album of their career and easily one of the best albums of 2010 or any other year. [Feb 2010, p.91]”
The Band: Miike Snow
Many of you may not have heard of Miike Snow. But you have heard Miike Snow. The synth-pop duo are the pair responsible for Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. One of the best pop songs of the decades, this alone set a high standard for the music the pair chooses to make for themselves.
The Build Up: Miike Snow
In 2009, Miike Snow’s debut album Miike Snow echoed with synth pop perfection, featuring the catchy memorable hooks and lyrics that “Toxic” suggested they could write. (No, each time I write Miike I am NOT typing it wrong. There are in fact, two “ï”s back to back. It looks wierd, but go with it.) “Animal” kick starts the self titled with an infusion of Reggae/ska rhythm and sets the tone for what is to come, exploring lyrical hooks and synth soundcraft in equal measure. “Burial” keeps the ska-tone driving, but mixes in synth swirls akin to the best of the 1980s New Wave. “Silvia” drips with the want and drive of the after hours, like a lyracized extention of the Underworld circa Beaucoup Fish, replete with mono-synths gliding across the thumb of the drums and bass. “Song for No One” introduces an almost, western/cowboy riff-as-hook beside the earnest spoken verses and the budding, throbbing bridge. “Black and Blue” drives with a doowop meats disco sensibility that makes you want to dance till the end of days. “Sans Soleil” drops the dance beat in favor of a conga and woodblock beat, swirling across with monosynth, plucking piano notes, and earnest, heart felt lyrics even if you don’t quit get why they are saying what they are saying (“How can we expect to build a boat– with Seagulls ruining everything?” “It’s all the opposite I think, the ladder runs side to side.”) “A Horse is Not a Home” builds a catchy, dance anthm around a ridiculous concept. “Plastic Jungle” drips like the best of the 1980s Eurythmics, buzzing along while the Jazz lyrics roll across, “Now I see just what you mean; it hurts to much to breathe; all alone in this plastic jungle”. The album closes with “Faker”, a swirl of soulful instrumental flourishes built on a running bass line. Overall, the album was satisfying beyond belief, leading me to believe the band would make imense leaps forward in future releases.
The Disappointment: Happy to You
Things go wrong for Happy to You almost from the start, the first track feeling like a four minute intro, with an annoying intro, and ruthlessly arpegiating background that sounds like the bad end of a Chemical Brothers acid trip, never coalescing into the beauty that the self titled hit so perfectly, and what’s worse, repeating the somewhat annoying back ground pieces to the point that you simply do not wish to listen to the track anymore. “The Wave” is a fine song, but dwells too long on the snare drum/piano intro, and goes too often to too bare of an aural landscape for track with as minimal vocal content, leaving it more as something you were interested in than something you liked.
The Band: Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear have been around since 2002, releasing two albums in their first six years. The band blends modern instruments like synthesizers with accoustic guitar and folk song writing.
The Build Up: Veckatimest
In 2008, when the group released Veckatimest the album was featured in Time Magazine. Everything you need to know about the album, which was a solid effort, is contained in two tracks: “Two Weeks” and “Fine For Now”. “Two Weeks” starts with a staccotto piano line, then builds with a swirl of harmonic vocals, forming together into a perfect sing along doo wop song. “Fine for Now” slides across the ear in a slinky, soft jazz swirl. Both songs are nearly perfect, while the rest of the album is somewhat forgettable.
The Disappointment: Shields
I should have seen this one coming: even at their best, Grizzly Bear are inaccessible and artsy. What set Veckatimest apart was the indelible, indescribably memorable hook of its two best tracks. Shields is a fine album. Listening to it deeply is quite satisfying. But there’s no track on this album that grabs hold of the soul and demands to be loved the way “Two Weeks” did. Shields is probably even a more complete, artistically more sound album that the earlier one, but its failure to repeat the success of a singular memorable song left me, sadly, disappointed.
The Band: Rihanna
Rihanna is a pop star. I can only assume that each and everyone of you has heard of Rihanna, unless you are living under some variety of rock.
The Build Up: Loud
Loud was a monster smash. It was also a listenable album– which is not garaunteed for an album in the world of R&B/Pop/hip hop. “S&M” kick starts the album. It was a US #1 hit and features unforgettable imagery in its lyrics “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me” and great plays on words that build on Rihanna status as a sex symbol “I may be bad, but I’m perfectly good at it.” The second track, “What’s My Name?” features a collaboration with Drake. It was a US #1 hit. Rihanna’s accent can be heard, and the video for the track is inspired for as simple as it was at heart, with Rihanna in the striped jacket, the seduction in the milk aisle, the city shots spliced in, and Rihanna’s two step dance in the streets, Rihanna’s red hair, Rihanna’s powder blue nails, Rihanna’s orange nails, the central park drum circle– this video is pure sex. The third track, “Drink to That'” is an anthem in exultation, hitting the high feeling notes like the best of U2’s apex. Rihanna’s island accent is even more noticable and endearing here when she croons, “Don’t let the bastards get you down” you just want to join in on the party at the bar she is describing. This track, also a single, only hit #7 in the US. “Only Girl in the World”, the fifth track on the album was also a single. It was the lead single in fact. It hit #1 in the US. Its a great track, a dance song, and it was unavoidable when it came out. “California King Bed” never reach the top 25, peaking on the charts at 59 in the US– but the song is a nice ballad, a neccessary break from the sex and club and drum&bass of the other tracks. “Man Down” is a story song about a woman who kills her abusive boyfriend or spouse. The islands permeate it more than any other track Rihanna has done, as she reggae style raps out the verses a constant police siren weaves into the background as calypso xolophone rolls across the beat.
This time period also featured Rihanna on Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie”, which hit #1 in the US and was nominated for nearly every song award it was eligible for. Rihanna was also featurred on David Guetta’s “Whose that Chick?” which powered out the dance rythms and featured an insane pyschodelic video. It only reached 51 in the US, but was #1 on the Dance charts. Rihanna also contributed to “All of the Lights” for Kanye West’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010.
The Disappointment: Unapologetic
It may be a bit of a cop-out to ignore Rihanna’s 2011 Talk that Talk which probably was equally as disappointing as Unapologetic, but Rihanna’s 2010 was so strong featuring a half dozen #1 songs, many of which were instantly classic that what she has done since has been ultimately very disappointing. It may also be too early to judge this album which was released in November, and so far has had only one single “Diamonds” which did reach #1. It impossible to shake, however, the feeling that Rihanna has moved on from her apex. Its hard not to wonder whether whatever Mojo she had in 2010 can be regained at some point. Also, this: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/rihanna-chris-brown-back-together Sad that such a strong, beautiful, talented woman would return to a man who very publicly abused her.
2012 cerainly disappointed. The Mayans in particular must have been crushed to find the world still existing in 2013 and beyond. These are, of course, only a few choices of albums that disappointed– I’m sure many other bands put out sub-optimal releases which left their fans somewhat dry at the mouth, but these few were the ones which left me the most disappointed after having been the most excited to hear them.