1) Sufjan Stevens- The Age of Adz
Aside from the absolutely beautiful “Futile Devices,” which makes me sigh and become teary eyed every time I hear it, I find the rest of this album to be largely unlistenable. Most of the songs are painfully dissonant and cacophonous, and I find myself skipping through them. It’s a departure from his already quirky style that he popularized on “Come on Feel the Illinoise,” but not in a good way.
2) Bjork- Medulla
I feel similarly about this album as I do to “The Age of Adz.” It’s pretty tough to listen to and kind of jarring in its dissonance. It came after the masterpiece album “Vespertine,” and her heart wrenchingly beautiful soundtrack to “Dancer in the Dark,” so I had high hopes. But experimental and different do not always equal pleasant to listen to.
3) Ryan Adams- 29
“29” was the last in a trilogy of Ryan Adams albums he released in 2005, starting with the double album “Cold Roses,” which was the strongest of the three. Aside from the haunting “Nightbirds,” that shimmers in the most mesmerizing way on the refrain “into the ocean….” it sounds like Adams’ creativity, inspiration and songwriting skills were a little washed up when he got to this album.
4) Bright Eyes- The People’s Key
After the incredibly well crafted “Cassadaga,” this album just felt sloppy and poorly put together. I remember putting it on repeat for at least a week in an earnest effort to let it grow on me, but it never did. Several of the songs are catchy and upbeat, which is atypical for Bright Eyes, but the whole thing just comes across as a little messy and overproduced. The did the “plugged in” and electronic thing much better on 2004’s “Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.”
5) Sonic Youth- NYC Ghosts & Flowers
Sonic Youth was my absolute favorite band in middle school and high school, and I remember rushing to the record store when “NYC Ghosts & Flowers” came out during my junior year, then shelving the CD in disappointment when I just could not tolerate listening to more than a couple of songs. Sonic Youth are a band known for their dissonance, experimentation and cacophony. Usually these elements work in the most beautiful way on their records, but on this particular release they just fall flat and sound either lazy, uninspired or washed up.
6) Arcade Fire- Reflektor
It’s great when a band can evolve and try something that takes their sound in a totally new direction after a Grammy win, but I think Arcade Fire just sound a little full of themselves these days and are frankly overhyped. This album fails to match the intense melodic and lyrical passion found in “Funeral” and “Neon Bible” or the well thought out conceptual construction of “The Suburbs.” I’m shocked by the number of stellar reviews this album has received. Fingers crossed that their next album will take them back to their roots.
7) Ben Folds- Songs For Silverman
“Rockin’ the Suburbs” was a hard act to follow, and unfortunately Ben fell a little flat with “Silverman.” It’t not a bad album but it falls flat overall and lacks the hooks, humor and overall punch that made all of his previous work so alluring. I’ve tried really hard to love this album, but it just never grabbed me or stayed with me the way that all of his other albums immediately did. He comes across as having slipped so complacently into fatherhood and middle age that he’s asleep in the suburbs….
8) Incubus- If Not Now, When?
Like Ben Folds(Five), Incubus is another band I’ve loved since high school but have pretty much lost interest in. Their sound has completely lost its edge, to the point of coming across as boring, bland, and much like that of more standard “lite rock” bands. They’ve done softer, more understated songs and ballads in a breathtakingly beautiful way before (see “Love Hurts” and “Here in My Room”), but this softer, slick sound that they put forth here just sounds contrived and lifeless.
9) Weezer- Pinkerton
I feel like I’m committing musical sacrilege by putting this album on a “worst of” list, but try as I might, I could just never appreciate it or enjoy listening to it. Whenever I think of or hear the words “sophomore slump,” this is the first album that comes to mind. I know that many fans revere “Pinkerton” as Weezer’s finest album, and it seemed cool and trendy to lather it with praise and adoration. But I just don’t get it. It has always come across as messy, jarring and a bit narcissistic. Almost like a hastily slapped together collection of B-sides.
10) Dandy Warhols- The Odditorium or Warlords of Mars
Honestly, everything that the Dandys have released since 2003’s “Welcome to the Monkey House” has sounded like absolute half baked crap. This is the album where an amazing band that used to provide me with so much ear candy started to go downhill…fast. Lazy and sloppy don’t even begin to describe it. It really is like listening to nails on a chalkboard. They should have called it “The Dandy Warhols Let Us Down.”