Best of 2011

Top Five Most Disappointing Albums of 2011

I’ve had this conversation several times before, but I don’t nearly write enough about music that I find pretentious, irksome, canned, boring and uninspired. Similarly, this isn’t an ode to the perpetual horrors of the Lou Reed/Metallica circle jerk – these are albums that I actually give a shit about, which is what makes them truly disappointing. Because no one has high hopes for Metallica anymore.

Top Five Most Disappointing Albums of 2011

Chad VanGaalen – Diaper Island

To be fair, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this album. VanGaalen continues to be one of the most prolific and interesting songwriters of our generation. My problem with Garbage Island is that I find it to be his weakest album by far. I like some of the trashier moments, but, as evidenced by his slop-tastic, guitar-falling-apart set at this year’s NXNE set in Toronto, VanGaalen proves that not everything he does needs to be lapped up blindly by both critics and fans. Of course, he already admitted that with his Black Mold project.

Feist – Metals

Again, nothing really wrong with this album, but with Metals Feist further pushes herself into the ‘mom rock’ genre – there is a reason she is adored by the 40-plus set. In fact, I conjecture that 2012 is the year that Feist evolves from playing Sesame Street and goes straight to The Backyardigans. Barf.

Dirty Beaches – Badlands

I really like the idea of Dirty Beaches: a weird solo-artist turned outsider art that appeals to punks, indie rockers, hipsters and the art kids. Unfortunately, Pitchfork’s summation – “shit-fi” – actually rings with far more truth than the tastemakers likely meant. After seeing Dirty Beaches live twice this year it still just sounds like bad karaoke set to a broken loop station.

Obits – Moody, Standard and Poor

This one sort of broke my heart, especially considering that the Obits’ first album, I Blame You, is pretty much up there alongside everything that front man Rock Froberg’s Hot Snakes has done. However, having seen the band yawn through a massively mediocre set earlier this year in Montreal, and giving Moody, Standard and Poor another listen, all I can think about is how I never saw the Hot Snakes onstage and how fucking depressing that is.

The Dirtbombs – Party Store

One of my favourite live bands of all time, The Dirtbombs’ latest release is a bunch of weird, tripped-out covers of old house and techno songs. Considering the Detroit band is at their best when they tackle old soul tunes and add fistfuls of punk grit and street savvy sass, this is a huge disappointment. Please go back to your R&B roots.

Honorable Mention

Record Store Day, Nov. 2011

Not just crappy due to any of the now-ubiquitous “exclusive” Record Store Day releases – which are all hugely unnecessary – but Canada attempting to mimic the consumer frenzy of America’s Black Friday is decidedly lame. And major labels hijacking record collecting as a way to capitalize on reissuing albums that were released 30 years ago is a total dick move.