Rejoice, for year-end list season is upon us once again! As the year comes to a close we enter a wonderful time for music lovers. It’s a time where we get to look back, relisten, and share the albums we’ve fallen in love with throughout the year. But before we can reminisce on the good we have to remember the bad. I was let down by many of my favourite artists this year, so instead of poking good fun at albums like Fall Out Boy’s Mania or the latest Imagine Dragons…..thing, I want to focus on the bad or disappointing records that I was personally looking forward to. So without further ado, let’s begin year-end list season with a dive into A Diverse Sound’s ten most disappointing albums of 2018.
10. for King and Country: Burn the Ships
For King and Country are an Australian pop duo so, coming from my home country, putting them on this list hurts a little. Burn the Ships is an admittedly drab pop release from a band who were once bursting with energy. That isn’t to say slow songs make a bad pop record, I must stress that this isn’t a bad record. Maybe it was the misdirection of the early singles (“Amen” promised something grand and epic whilst “Joy” nodded towards a more upbeat venture) that made the remainder of the album disappointing, but by the time “Pioneers” rolled around I realized that I hadn’t been engaged with any of the material past “Amen.”
9. Chvrches: Love Is Dead
At the start of the year, I was certain Chvrches had the best pop album of 2018 under wraps. But as the songs slowly trickled out one after the other I only found myself feeling more and more underwhelmed. Going from the infectious and surprisingly layered Every Open Eye to the generic, tacky, and repetitive to a fault Love Is Dead was a truly sad fall to witness.
8. Weathered: Stranger Here
At the release of its debut single, “There is One,” this became one of my most anticipated records of the year. It was exciting to hear a Christian band going after an alt-rock/emo sound because in an overly worship saturated market it’s been sadly avoided. Although the band does achieve that sound to a certain extent the execution leaves plenty to be desired. It’s a disappointingly boring foray into a style of music I love so much. Here’s to something brilliant next time.
7. Julia Holter: Avairy
Understandably a controversial pick but Holter’s latest critically acclaimed dive into the psychedelic and avant-garde is nothing short of impenetrable. On the surface, this is the kind of music I yearn for but, try as I might, I cannot see the musical value in a project like this. Maybe it’ll do a Kid A and become one of my all-time favourites a few years down the road. For now, however, I sadly have to conclude that this is one for “the appreciate and respect but fail to enjoy” folder.
6. Lydia: Liquor
O how the mighty have fallen. Lydia is/was a pop/rock act in the same family as Copeland and early Mae but as time has gone on they’ve slowly embraced a more mainstream pop aesthetic. I love me some pop and in the right circumstances Lydia can pull off the transition really well (like they did with Devil a few years back and even on some of Run Wild) but on their latest project, they fail on nearly all accounts. Their music has become tasteless, vapid, and weightless. The very definition of style over substance. At least we’ll always have the ever beautiful Illuminate to cherish.
5. Crowder: I Know A Ghost
Oh Crowder, what are you doing, my friend? I Know A Ghost is like watching someone attempt to create something new and useful from things one would find in an unkempt garden shed. If you were to be so kind, when he finished you would gently pat his shoulder and tell him that since it was all held together by a piece of coloured twine if he tried to use it, it’d just fall apart. Yeah, there’s a humorous charm to it all, and I believe Crowder knows this (if you need evidence just listen to “La Luz” and its transition into “The Sinner’s Curse.” Yikes), but nay a good album does it make, and I Know A Ghost is quite possibly the worst record of Crowder’s prolific career.
4. Owl City: Cinematic
I’ve enjoyed some of Owl City’s earlier material (Adam’s instrumental records from the year prior were especially a treat) so I was hopeful that there’d be something worthy of note here. However, as the record rolled on, I realized that Adam Young was more at home crafting actual cinematic music than he was behind his former pen name. The purpose behind this record is understandable, commendable even, but it’s a deeply personal release in all the wrong ways. It’s like a diary filled with things that mean the world to the writer but are rather mundane to anyone reading, or in this case, listening. The accompanying music is bland at best and terribly cheesy and campy at worst (i.e. “All My Friends”). Cinematic is a box office failure.
3. Phil Wickham: Living Hope
I’ve always seen Phil Wickham as one of the more genuine worship artists to come out of the 2000s (not to say others are inauthentic but that worship music doesn’t often provide an opportunity for genuine introspection and soul-bearing). His music wasn’t the most creative or innovative but there was a palatable sense of authenticity that made the songs sound wholly original. They were performed in a way only Phil Wickham could perform them and if you were to stick another vocalist on top it would change the song for the worst. On Living Hope, that sense of authenticity vanished almost entirely. Perhaps due to an overwhelming amount of co-writers, Living Hope sticks out of Wickham’s discography as a regretfully impersonal and creatively bankrupt project from one of the most beautiful voices in worship. It’s a living shame.
2. Underoath: Erase Me
Yuck. I can end my write-up for this one right there but in honor of Underoath’s legacy as one of Christian music’s most successful and innovative metalcore acts a more thorough explanation is necessary. Erase Me is a painful listen in just about every way. The honesty that is so praised comes across as petty, the music is terribly banal, and it raises its middle finger to everything the band has accomplished in the past musically. Burn it with fire and don’t ever look back.
1. Silent Planet: When The End Began
Two years ago Silent Planet established themselves as one of the most promising metalcore acts in recent memory with an awe-inspiring and gut-wrenching look into the minds of those suffering from various mental diseases, including PTSD, Anorexia / Nervosa, Depression, and more. It was lyrically empathetic, fascinatingly original, and musically crushing. The band’s third full-length release, however, sees that promise be dashed away. There are two players to blame for this: 1) The thin and metallic production and 2) the over-reliance on clean vocals. On Everything Was Sound the band managed to achieve the perfect dynamic balance between the harsh and the melodic, choosing also to mix the formula up in ways most tend to avoid. When The End Began places a much larger emphasis on traditional clean choruses and the majority of them are forgettable. Throw in the aforementioned awful production and you have clean vocals that are near unlistenable. I can only pray these guys will find their footing next time around.