We realize that we've made jokes elsewhere about the internet's refusal around this time of year to acknowledge the possibility that some people might not like the same things as other people like, and that it might be somewhat hypocritical of us to tell you you're wrong to like some of the things you've decided to like. But honestly? These records? The worst!
Grimes — Visions
It's not even the Debbie Gibson ghost vocals that did it in. Grimes’ much-discussed third album is a testament to why the “less is more” philosophy exists. With just a few exceptions (namely the singles), songs swim in such an overpopulated sea of sound, it's difficult to decipher if there's a lasting melody underneath, and there's oftentimes not any palpable emotion surfacing to offer any guidance. So you listen to a track, maybe even momentarily enjoy it, but then quickly forget it as the album moves onto its next sensory overload.
The xx — Coexist
Functioning at the opposite end of Grimes is The xx’s minimalist approach to songcraft, this time so svelte, the album is barely there. “There are times when it sounds like a trip-hop album whose inept lawyer failed to clear any of the samples, so they decided just to release it without them,” L Mag critic Jeff Klingman quipped in his review. In a turn from the band’s 2009 debut, Jamie xx’s surgically precise production goes in vain. There is nothing particularly odd or even interesting going on for its minimalism to highlight—no rapturous affair, no suffocating passion. It’s all just a blank stare.
Teen Daze — All of Us, Together & The Inner Mansions
Hype Machine named Vancouver producer Teen Daze as one of the 10 most blogged-about artists of 2012, according to the blog aggregator's in-house data, which does not bode well for the Internet. Obligations to the blogosphere were upheld though, that's for sure: Two albums of pacifiable electro-pop released during the year, one of which includes a song titled “Brooklyn Sunburn,” both with glazed-over vocals and plenty of reverb. In other words: jaded, uncreative and fulfilling a checkbox of “trends.” This type of music has become so commonplace in 2012, it’s the equivalent of a glass of water.
Twin Shadow - Confess
While it’s easy to appreciate Confess for taking chillwave—if that’s a term we can still say with a straight face in 2012—and shattering it into harder-edged dance music, songs still fall victim to contrived conventions, but now of multiple genres. Over its 40-minute run time, proprietor George Lewis Jr. essentially takes one of two routes: deadpan aggression or unnuanced passion. Coupled with a tirade of synths, cuts like “Five Seconds" sound like they belong soundtracking a scene from Top Gun. It's cheesey, is what we're saying.
Wild Nothing — Nocturne
Weightless Smiths-aping that somehow forgot to try for acid wit or nervy excitement. Wild Nothing’s second record suffers from a failure of ambition that masquerades as a tightening of craft. It’s got guitar hooks that seem readily familiar, but worse for their pervasive half-lidded energy level. It’s boring enough to make you wonder if you actually secretly hate huge swaths of stuff you’ve always liked.
Passion Pit — Gossamer
See, the fucked up thing about Passion Pit is that you couldn't really say you thought they were terrible this year without coming off like sort of an asshole, thanks to that totally overblown Pitchfork story about lead singer Michael Angelakos's struggles with depression. The piece just happened to be timed perfectly with the release of the band's new album, which is a lightweight little electro-pop record with lyrics that want very badly to be insightful but simply are not. Kudos to these guys, though, for a really great spread in that Brooks Brothers catalog.