The Year In Review: The 10 Most Disappointing Albums of 2006
Jay-Z -Kingdom ComeMaybe I was a bit hard on this album when I reviewed it a few weeks ago, but every time I go back and listen to it again, I can't help but think that if the Islamic Republic of Iran could get their hands on a bomb this big we'd be in a whole lot of trouble. After the collective triumph that was The Black Album, Kingdom Come feels completely unnecessary, a useless chapter tacked onto the end of one of the greatest careers of all time. Unless of course, you own Vivendi stock, in which case you're probably looking at it as a positive 4th Quarter earnings boost (despite that 80 percent second week slide)
Granted, "Kingdom Come" was one of the best singles of '06 and "Trouble" showcased glimpses of vintage Jay, but this album was easily the most uninspired and lazily cobbled together of his career (and that says a lot in a discography that includes Roc La Familia). Jay feels compelled to brag about his maturity and growth every five seconds, but this growth is rarely evident during the album's hour span. His lyrics are nothing more than sloppy rehashes of earlier, better boasts, his flow is more akin to the torpid Jeezy aping bars that Jay spit on the "Hustlin" remix, than the Reasonable Doubt-era hustler who effortlessly held his own against Biggie on "Brooklyn's Finest." But that's cool. I know that Sean Carter is long gone. I was just hoping he wouldn't brag about being friends with Chris Martin, Gwyneth Paltrow and "Angela Joleezie."
The Streets-The Hardest Way to Make An Easy LivingThis isn't a bad record by any stretch of the imagination. Mike Skinner at his most banal and boring is still better than all but a few American rappers (even if he really can't rap). Instead "Disappointment" is the operative theme working here. Maybe you can't fault The Streets for setting the bar so high. Both Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don't Come For Free are two of the top 30 records made in this decade, full of bold, inspired and vivid portraits of the interior of Skinner's mind. Of course, that might be part of the problem with The Hardest Way, the portraits of a wayward life no longer seem original, they seem to be the stuff of rock n' roll cliche. No doubt, Skinner knows this, acknowledging it on the very first track. But once you've heard one cocaine and Hennessey brings the rock star down story you've heard 'em all. But it isn't only tired woe-is-me laments that harm the record, more damning is Skinner's abrasive and cocky sense of entitlement and rock privilege. NME poster boy doesn't suit the Streets. His skilled observations work much better as the quiet introverted boy in the corner rather than the drunken loutish celebrity buying out the bar.
Lady Sovereign -Public WarningI presume Lady Sovereign entitled her debut Public Warning to caution listeners that listening causes instant headaches. As if Young Jeezy and Rick Ross weren't enough proof that Jay-Z is the world's worst talent scout, Lady Sovereign has come along to assault ear drums. Truth be told, I think Sovereign's a better rapper than that pair of coke-rap clowns, but Public Warning's beats seem to only come at 7,000 bpm and don't mesh well with her chipmunk on speed raps. She's definitely talented and a surprisingly good writer, but if I were Jay-Z I'd steer her to Timbaland for some slow stoned space funk. The girl could be like Missy. Except skinnier, Britisher and better. (Yes, Britisher) As a debut, Public Warning shows promise, but just doesn't live up to the mountainous expectations that accompanied its arrival.
Jurassic 5-FeedbackConfession: When I was 18 years old in 1999, I thought Jurassic 5 was totally awesome. I didn't wear a backpack or anything like that, but I went to a bunch of their shows around LA and wore out their EP my first semester of college. So I really have a soft spot in my heart for the group. But Feedback is just flat-out dull . But I could live with dull. Hell, other than Charli 2Na, the group has always been fairly dry. But I can't live with Dave Matthews guest appearances on the first single. And my problem with the song isn't even that it's not very good, my problem is that J-5 were so out of touch that they thought their fanbase might actually think it was a good idea. The rest of the album isn't even all that much better, more of the same consciousness, old school nods, we are real mc's yadda yadda yadda schtick...I guess it officially makes it embarassing to like this group. Fuck. My 18 year old self is really upset. Oh well, I guess he can always wait for the Charli 2NA solo album.
DJ Shadow-The OutsiderIn interviews surrounding the release of this album DJ Shadow made it abundantly clear that he didn't give a flying fuck about his long-time fans if they didn't dig his "new " hyphy steez. So I really don't have a problem being similarly candid about his album. It sucks. Sure, there are snatches of real brilliance buried in there. An occasional breakbeat and sample that makes you pause for a moment, an apocaplyptic synth coda. I mean it is Shadow, the man behind Unkle, Entroducing and the sneaky-good Private Press. But hyphy ain't his forte. Not by a longshot. I'm still not sure why he can't just sell his hyphy beats to rappers as a side hustle, but it seems a bit unneccessary and more than a bit sonically abominable to put them on albums released under the Shadow name. I don't need "Midnight in a Perfect World" redux, but if I wanted hyphy I'd buy an E-40 record.
If you're looking for pure entertainment, this CD might be worth listening to if nothing else for imagining what sorts of weird scenarios led to the making of each song. Particularly, "He Tried to Play Me" which I declared earlier this year to be the soundtrack to Scarface if it'd been scored by a gang of violent and flamboyant homosexuals. I'll stand by the statement. That song is fucking bizarre. I guess you don't have to wonder what scenario led to the creation of the song "I.B.S," it's very clearly about irritant bowel syndrome. No joke. This CD certainly has its moments, Cam'ron's flow is strong and fluid (No Jim Jones) and it's always interesting if nothing else to hear what sort of brilliant inanity he'll spout next. But held up as a follow-up to the shockingly pretty good Purple Haze, it seems cluttered and un-focused. Not baalllin!!! (I'm still sticking to my no one says this in California defense)
Outkast-IdlewildThere's a good album in here somewhere, but it's tough to find, sifting through the album's 25 tracks and 1 hour, 17 minutes run time. I'm not saying Andre and Big Boi need to be completely on the same page to still be relevant, but Idlewild certainly shows that they need a good producer to rein them in. This is the result of what happens when creative ambitions, egos and talents are allowed to roam unchecked. It's a shapeless, bloated, but often interesting mess. The two rarely appear on the same track but that isn't really the problem. The problem is the skits the needless experiments for experiment's sake and the obscene number of guest appearances. You could pretty much lop the second half of this album off and it would improve it. This might be a pretty decent album for the iPod age, but as a work of art, it's Outkast at their most mediocre. (Still better than 97 percent of hip-hop.)
You know a band's going to be bad when they give themselves a name as dumb as Morningwood. Fuck, that makes the The Artic Monkeys look like the Velvet Underground. Seriously, did this band try to name themselves by surveying Ritalin-addled fifth grade boys? Even worse was their decision to go the whole hog and name their DEBUT album Morningwood! Apparently, IP Freely was already taken.
I'm not sure why I had any expectations whatsoever for this album. But I have a friend who swore by them, not to mention the 8 trillion music blogs that for some reason unbeknownst to me, decided to treat each Morningwood single like it was a new biblical testament discovered by sheep-herders in a Quatari cave. I suppose "Nth Degree" is catchy in a "Hey, I just drank three quarts of scotch and I wanna' dance sort of way" but seriously, why not just listen to the Sounds record. Seriously, there's nothing less cool than listening to a song called '"Take Off Your Clothes" being sung by a girl who looks like a cross between Blossom and Golda Meir. Really, there's nothing.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Gold Lion
Karen O shouldn't be so embarassed about getting a few leaked Demo Tapes. If anything, she should regret letting Show Your Bones see the light of the day. Perhaps that's a tad harse. Show Your Bones isn't terrible. It's not even bad. It has a few pretty great songs ("Gold Lion" "Way Out". A few good ones ("Turn Into," "Dudley"). Several average tracks and a few experiments gone terribly awry, most notably"Phenomena" where Karen O and the gang seem to be channel Billy Squier by way of LL Cool J. The chorus repeats "Something Like a Phenomena" and it's placed smack at Track #5 just to sits there just waiting to remind you of the Bad Boy era and Puffy's misguided attempts to produce for LL.
This isn't Fever to Tell Part 2 by any strech of the imagination, and not in a good way. This is the sound of a band not quite sure what they want to be (which makes sense considering the articles that have chronicled the bi-coastal turmoil surrounding its recording). If you really want to hear a good sequel to Fever to Tell, you're much better off buying the Love is All record.
Birdmonster-No MidnightI'm not trying to pick on these dudes because they seem like really nice guys and every blogger seems to really like them, but....this album just isn't good. At all. I'll be honest, I probably had much-too-high expectations. The buzz about the band was deafening, I enjoyed "Resurrection Song" and "All the Holes in the Walls" from their 2005 EP, and they had a decent live show, making up what they lacked in originality with passion and energy. But honestly, as much as I rip on Pitchfork, sometimes they do it right, particularly in William Bowers' review:
"My ears feel like they've been listening to 10 not-diffuse-enough acts, all of them requisitely "indie" and marinated with just enough Springsteen to seem congealed. Almost every white-rock sound since the mid-1980s is on display here, and energetically, too. Peter Arcuni's agreeable-emo voice wants to be loved so much that you will feel like a total condom if you don't hop on board their website that only sells girls' tees and the typo-seasoned, teen-rhetoric band-blog. (Google image search these dollcakes for maximum cuteness.)"
Not to say that these guys don't have a future ahead of them, I'm sure they do. Hell, even the crappiest white bread bands from the mid-90s still eek out a living playing county fairs. A few nasty reviews are nothing to worry about. Rejoice, finally the indie rock version of the Goo Goo Dolls have arrived.