Since 2014 I have written an annual “best of” list of my favourite albums. But, as unfortunate as it is, where there are good albums there are also bad ones. As I have a massive year-end list in the oven I thought I’d change things up a little and look at five albums that have disappointed me and another five I consider to be the worst 2017 has had to offer.
The Most Disappointing.
With the exception of the last two picks the records in this section aren’t particularly bad. When compared with their earlier records, however, these were terribly underwhelming.
5. All Time Low: Last Young Renegades
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed most of All Time Low’s past material, especially 2012’s Don’t Panic, but this latest release sees them experimenting with mainstream pop and that’s rarely a good thing. Last Young Renegades isn’t as bad as it could have been (“Good Times” is a really solid pop ballad, “Ground Control” is a pleasant duet, and the titular track proves they haven’t forsaken their sound completely), but nothing comes close to their signature quality.
4. Spoken: IX
Unlike Last Young Renegades, Spoken’s IX isn’t underwhelming because of a drastic change of sound. IX disappoints for the completely opposite reason in that it demonstrates little to no growth from their previous two (great) records. They’ve kept their sound but the delivery is stale and worn, so what we get is a serviceable rock album that probably won’t be looked back on whenever they release a (hopefully stronger) follow-up.
3. Cool Hand Luke: Cora
Out of everything on this list Cool Hand Luke’s long-awaited return is what I was anticipating the most. Aside from a couple of scattered moments that reveal some of the splendour of their past material, Cora is a disappointing venture. Yet, I know others who quite enjoy this so check it out and see if you feel the same way.
2. Kutless: Alpha / Omega
Why do we have yet another worship/covers album from Kutless? Alpha/Omega is their tenth studio record and three of those are practically cover albums of popular worship songs. Outside of the Christian market, critics would find this lack of effort appalling, but it baffles me that many Christians continue to accept and even praise it. It’s time we demand better from artists who are representing our faith.
1. NF: Perception
Nate, we need to talk, brother. Your new album is not good. Let me tell you why. You’ve released three albums in three years and each subsequent release has displayed a massive dip in quality. Your music sounds rushed and that’s never a good thing. I enjoyed Mansion quite a bit, but Therapy Session was starting to dip into much weaker, trap waters, and Perception is the first time I’ve struggled (really struggled) to listen to your record from front to back. Sixteen songs of dark and uninteresting rap just isn’t a good idea. Take your time, tighten up your track list, craft stronger melodies, and change things up every now and then (think “Turn the Music Up” from Mansion). Songs like “My Life” and “Know” are-excuse me for being blunt-insufferable. I know your music is cathartic but it simply won’t wash when you’re putting a rough draft out into the world.
The Worst Albums of 2017
This next section isn’t a continuation of the first as, in all honesty, I never expected any of these to be good. I went in with an extremely low expectation and often left with worse impressions. This year has seen an incredible number of great releases but when it comes to looking at its worst it holds nothing back. Let’s begin with some dishonourable mentions.
The Letter Black: Pain – There are some terrible rock numbers on here, such as the opening track “Fear,” but overall it’s only a slightly below average effort. In other words, exactly what I was expecting.
Katy Perry: Witness – Because this album is painfully bland and Perry and Swift belong together. Makeup you two.
Train: a girl a bottle a boat – Everything about this album, from the bad grammar in the title to the music and lyrics, is not good. Please, don’t “Play That Song” again.
5. Imagine Dragons: Evolve
Imagine Dragons has always been the band you associate with some other product. For me, “It’s Time” used to play in the background of a mobile FIFA game and I could never hear it without thinking about that game. While their subsequent albums showed off a highlight here and there, album three plays out like a collection of advertisements. You will associate “Believer” with some prime time drama and “Thunder” with a car commercial. Nothing stands on its own as it continually sounds as if it was written for an advertisement. It’s uninteresting, safe, and easily digestible.
4. The Chainsmokers: Memories: Do Not Open
What happened to pop? Why can’t it be fun anymore? Turn on a top 100 radio station and the majority of hits are songs that take themselves far too seriously and offer no real musical “pop.” Case in point, The Chainsmokers made it big with their song “Closer” awhile back and now we have a whole album of EDM sleeping pills. Sometimes it works (I do like “Something Like This” and “Paris” is serviceable) but most of the time it’s just lifeless and tedious.
3. Sleeping With Sirens: Gossip
Kellin Quinn claimed to have put a great deal of effort into this release but I just cannot see it. Gossip is an extraordinarily trite and generic venture. “Closer” is, ironically enough, the closest thing to a solid cut on here. The rest of the album lacks anything even remotely gripping musically and lyrically it’s as cliche as anything you’re bound to listen to this year. Indeed, this was the worst release of the year for me until I heard….
2. Maroon 5: Red Pill Blues
If there is anything good to say about Red Pill Blues it’s that it gives us 2017’s greatest musical mystery. Can you find the other six members on that cover in this music? I heard an acoustic guitar in one song and a faint drum on another but I’m baffled. All joking aside this is yet another painfully dull and overlong release from, what is in my eyes, an act that should have finished long ago. And believe it or not, even this isn’t my worst album of the year. That reward goes to a special little album called….
1. AJR: The Click
I promise that I didn’t grit my teeth while listening to this thing. No, I kept perfectly sane and composed as I listened to three grown men sing about their self-entitlement issues and “haters.” Yes, I just experienced the worst abomination Warner Brothers thinks millennial culture eats up but I really am ok. Alright, I lied, maybe I am a little shaken. Allow me to explain. AJR’s The Click is among the most horrid albums I have ever heard. How this thing was greenlit and given the a-ok is completely beyond me. Every note and lyric sets out to insult any semblance of artistic integrity and moral responsibility one may possess. I truly hate this album, and although I don’t like anything on this list, everything else is at least tolerable as background noise. This can’t even boast that compliment. I cannot help but maniacally laugh as I think about how spectacularly this album fails. Stay away from this if you want to keep your sanity.
Yes, this year has seen some atrocious albums, but these are just a blip on the screen compared to the beautiful records I will be sharing with you all soon. This year has been incredible and I cannot wait to share my biggest year-end list yet. I still need to hear the new U2 record coming out this week, as well as a couple of others I missed along the way (hopefully nothing more to add to this list) but expect it sometime mid-December. Remember, this is just my list so if you like anything here that’s great, keep enjoying what you enjoy. Until then….please, even if you’re forgiving, stay away from AJR!