Yelawolf - Radioactive
My initial semi-praise of this album seems overstated now. I've hardly played the album since the week after its release. It's not so much Yelawolf that's the problem here… it's the fact that there's so little recognizable as the Yelawolf I'd come to know and enjoy on his previous releases and mixtapes. I wanted southern culture on the skids (not the band, the thematic element). I wanted hard edges; damn the mainstream, make the mainstream come to you. Instead I got an inconsistent mishmash of sappy crossover hooks and "hard" love songs with a couple of nods to the past mixed in. Can an artist sell out on their first real album?
Reckless Kelly - Good Luck and True Love
Dumb lyrics sink this ship, period. Sure, these guys have never been Townes Van Zandt with electric guitars, but still. At least work on the words long enough that they aren't noticeable. I'm trying to come up with a comparison to an NBA ref… you don't even notice the good ones…. but that's not quite right; lyrics are important and most times I believe they should stand on their own… strip the music away and they're still enthralling. If you can't do that, at least run them by a Nashville song committee and let them blandify the lyrics so they fade into the background. These guys sound tired, and this was the year little brother (Micky and the Motorcars) finally beat up big brother.
Drive-by Truckers - Go-Go Boots
This album isn't that bad in the grand scheme of things, I'm just sick of the sad old man music. I'm sick of being lulled to sleep by one of the most badass rock bands in America. You've got those guitars in your hands and that whiskey in your glasses… put 'em to better use! Don't get me wrong, there are some great tunes on here (Used to Be a Cop, Mercy Buckets), but if I want almost entirely slow, depressing story-songs, I'll listen to Gordon Lightfoot. Pick up the pace!
Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers - Unida Cantina
They phoned this one in. Yawner of the first degree. RCPM is one of my go-to bands for comfortable heartland by way of the southwest rock music. Comfort is good, drudgery is not. I'm not sure what they were shooting for with the dopey album-opener "All Over the Radio." It sounds like they were going for a pop radio crossover when there's no bridge available for bands of this ilk to even cross. The lyrics aren't up to the standards set by previous releases (pre-No More Beautiful World) and most of the album sounds uninspired. "Empty Highway" is the only song that stuck with me.
The Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time
Again, not actually bad… but with the reunion of the original vocalists, I was expecting a homerun. The swelling melodies I'd hoped for are restrained. The big hooks I love are nowhere to be heard. Can they not hit the high notes anymore? I doubt it, and when you've got long range assault rifles in the arsenal, why just fire the pellet guns?
Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV
Wayne still has a way with the one-liner, but this album just feels like a long string of puns. The beats are boring and the songs just don't hold together. A couple of old-school feeling tracks were winners (Blunt Blowin', 6 Foot 7 Foot) but the rest was difficult to listen to more than a couple times. For as much hype as this album had coming in, it has to be considered the biggest failure of the year.
Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You
RHCP has enough cred in the bank that I'm going to check out anything they release, despite recent sparse and dull output. So, how was this one? Sparse and dull. You've got two of the most exciting artists of the past few decades (Flea and Anthony Kiedis) still in the fold and this is the result? As Andrew from rabbitsblack.com put it: "Five years of waiting, and they release an album that sounds like the B-sides of Stadium Arcadium (which was also disappointing)." Amen.
Note - The only truly awful album I listened to from start to finish this year was Justin Moore's Outlaws Like Me, which (as I said yesterday) is basically just a long string of "how damn country I am" tunes with lyrics a teenager could slap together.