Sunday, 15 December 2013

Top 10 Disappointing Albums of 2013

It’s never easy to construct a list that’s more negative than positive - however, disappointments are a big part of list making, not forgetting the persona of certain albums and how we think differently from fans, critics, or just the general expectation. Remember, these 10 albums were disappointing to us; it doesn’t necessarily put a negative stigma on these albums. These failed to live up to our expectations, which is why Daft Punk is on this list and Jake Bugg is not.

10. Deltron 3030 – Event II

Event II was hotly tipped to be one of the defining hip-hop albums of 2013, or 2005, 2008, 2010 and so on – in the years running up to Event II’s official release date. Deltron 3030 kept pushing it back, and perhaps that’s the reason why the recordings and pieced together samples sound rushed. Deltron 3030’s self-titled debut album is special, and has influenced many hip-hop artists since, but this follow-up just ruins the glorious one album wonder and hype build from 2001 – 2012. Rest in Peace Deltron 3030? Maybe not. Event II isn’t a bad album at all, it’s a solid six in terms of how I would score it, but it just doesn’t live up to the expectation set by their debut over a decade ago. I wasn’t expecting anything special on face value, but Even II just leaves me wanting to scrap the album from my library and the Deltron 3030 discography altogether.
~Eddie Gibson

9. BT - A Song Across Wires

It’d be foolish to think Brian Transeau’s work pattern would move away from the shifting between relaxed, proto-ambient, experimental electronica, and upbeat EDM-leaning dance music he’s been following as of late. The shift continued with A Song Across Wires’ contemporary catch-up with the commercial World’s love of trend-setting, mass-appealing trance and dubstep. But if Transeau was attempting to simply appeal rather than impress - impress in the sense of 2006’s brilliant This Binary Universe - this was the record showing BT up as a producer vying, and failing, to recoup previous heights. Aside from the slow-building beauty of "Skylarking", A Song Across Wires was no more than a tedious rinse-and-repeat of dance music’s recognizable tropes - trance, dubstep and modern day electronica, intriguing in some parts, bloated more so with predictable ‘surprises’ and hollow ‘amassed’ energy.
~Jordan Helm

8. Depeche Mode - Delta Machine

For those who disregarded Depeche Mode as 'well past it' in recent times, you needn't look any further than 2010's Sounds of the Universe to see one of synth-pop's crowned champions had more than enough fire brimming to produce an album of such spectacle and efficiency. Delta Machine unfortunately became the flippant tails to the Essex trio's heads; an album majorly lacking in depth, engagement and above all, a sense of that same energy and delivery that made their late 80's/early 90's catalogue a must for any synth or new wave follower. In the end, Dave Gahan's tired themes of religion and Martin Gore's lone synthesizer leads provided little empathy and littler drive in a trove of structurally-lacking pieces.
~Jordan Helm

7. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Disco is cool now? I wasn’t around in the era of “Night Fever” or “Stayin' Alive”, but I’m sure old enough to have checked it out and left it where it belongs for the Disco Stu’s of society to re-live, while the rest of us move on and find something morehouse. Daft Punk’s past has been very interesting, though the costumes and anonymity never really meant more than a selling point, compared to my childhood starter Gorillaz. But Homework is a great album, and nobody can dislike the production and overall feel of Discovery. Daft Punk’s fourth album was pre-dated by the summer single of 2013 “Get Lucky”, an interesting disco track warming the hardcore Daft Punk fans to an unusual developed ad natural sound for Random Access Memories. Its disco sounds are layered with the pop of today’s light hearted soul music, and the guests do little to salvage the perpetual repetitiousness of the percussion and a vocoder. Random Access Memories was a disappointing listen on the first listen, and still is now within double figures. They could have taken this sound a lot further than the quiet, mediocrity of “Instant Crush”, and the 70s robotic Scott Walker “Beyond”.
~Eddie Gibson

6. Moby - Innocents

Richard Melville Hall's go-to fascination with string arrangements and orchestral sweeps in melody are widely known. Seeing them dominantly present on Innocents wasn't what gave Moby's eleventh album its disappointing lingers. Rather, it was US songwriter and producer's inability to go beyond anything that wasn't heavily reliant on such sounds to distil a desired emotion or narrative. In effect, Moby's latest offering was his most linear, disconnected and tiresome of his discography - an album not entirely without its stand-out moments, but unfortunately one that tried disguising its superficial depth with greater breadth of tone and a host of guest contributors that from the off was a challenge to be convinced over.
~Jordan Helm

5. Kanye West – Yeezus

Went in expecting: more pretentiousness with great samples and guest vocals like with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – came out thinking: Death Grips 10 years down the line. Yeezus has been berated with praise for its ‘innovative’ sound, blending genres together to create a sound already created in two different forms – the noisy electronic hip-hop artists like Death Grips, and the noisy electronic punk / no wave artists like Suicide. Kanye West’s lyricism has faded from gloriously up his own arse, to strangely heartfelt tales that sound more like unfinished short stories than rap vocals. The hype came, the cover shocked – none, and the hype went. At the end of it all, listeners of West’s early days are still left wondering why he gets so many people in to alter the shape of his sound – when he could be taking it back to his golden age, and the spoke of hip-hop golden age, instead of this mild electronic rap on Yeezus.
~Eddie Gibson

4. The Knife - Shaking the Habitual


The Knife topped out Top 10 Albums of 2006 re-cap list for their third album Silent Shout. It’s an album that stunned us here at MRD, and still does today for its minimalistic techno and deep electronica. Shaking the Habitual is an album we’ve been expecting for a number of years from The Knife, but they never really outlined the need or want to continue releasing studio albums as The Knife. Well Shaking the Habitual came out this year, with a pink cover which looks – terrible, it really does. Its content is far from terrible though, Shaking the Habitual is a respectable comeback album, and a double album of that. The Knife feature in a number of our lists this year, but Shaking the Habitual has its spot on the disappointments list because the overall concept, feel, and structure of Shaking the Habitual failed to live up to the expectation and hype set by Silent Shout seven years ago. Nobody expected The Knife to match that level of awesomeness, but Shaking the Habitual doesn’t even come close to it. 
~Eddie Gibson

3. Arcade Fire - Reflektor

If the foundries behind Arcade Fire's fourth album were anything to go by - the guerrilla-fashioned appearance of drawings, the dress codes, the disco-influenced direction, the collaboration with James Murphy on production - Reflektor had already given itself a hefty weight to prove that the age-old saying of its substance far out-weighing its style still stood. And while Arcade Fire's flux between classic rock tribulations and 4/4 synth leanings were interesting, the over-indulgence in long-winded track-lengths, disjointed arrangements and Win Butler's dire choice of lyrics at times, left a lot to answer for. Two discs, thirteen tracks, a ten minute prologue and another unneeded five minutes of 'experimentation' at the end; Reflektor was proof that artistry doesn't automatically equate acclaim.
~Jordan Helm

2. James Blake – Overgrown

James Blake’s Overgrown won the Mercury Prize award this year. Some people were surprised to see Blake’s name on top of the crest, as was I. Usually the critic board will pick an album of favouritism which is more obvious than not (ignoring the 2009 Speech Debelle bogey year). Alas, Overgrown won in somewhat amusing fashion, as Blake was announced as James Blunt – not to mention Blake’s better, and more upholding self-titled debut missed out a few years back. Overgrown feels shallow in Blake’s discography; all the eeriness of his debut seems to have been lost in the synthesizer Blake uses throughout. The percussion doesn’t do wonders, and Blake’s early career is left behind in the faint cry of his vocal shrieks. It’s produced well, but the music here just doesn’t seem as interesting, or imaginative compared to previous Blake releases.
~Eddie Gibson

1. Delphic - Collections

With 2010's Acolyte, the indie-electronic three-piece had given me a boost in my confidence over danceable hooks and youth removing itself from the unwanted incursion of safe bets, over-production and a lifeless intrigue to push forth. Collections not only tore away what interest Delphic had rightfully built for themselves, it was stone-wall evidence of newcomers unknowingly trying to impress through express. The result was the very product mainstream pop favoured: in parts over-produced, in others directionless - half-baked ideas masquerading as full-blown products. While not the lowest rated of 2013's albums, the aspiration, the anticipation and indeed the excitement - all of which torn to shreds - makes Collections the pinnacle of this year's disappointments for both a critic, as well as a fan.
~Jordan Helm

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