Year-end list season is upon us. It’s that time of year where I actually get around to writing something on this blog. I’ll never pass up on the chance to share my thoughts on the albums that released throughout the year (and in this case, the final year of the decade!) and this year I’ve got a lot to say. Following the same pattern of the last two years, I’ll begin list season right at the bottom and slowly work my way up to the top 25 and the Album of the Year.
Every year there are those few records that leave you feeling-for lack of a better word to describe it-betrayed. In some ways, these are the records that hurt more than the worst the year had to offer. Of course, this list is not meant to be objective in any sense. They merely reflect my personal opinion. If you enjoyed any of these records I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below Without further ado, here are the 5 records that let me down in 2019.
5. The National: I Am Easy To Find
Oh Natty, I worried this day would eventually come. The National are nothing short of critical darlings and easily one of my top ten favourite bands of all-time. Four of their albums are some of the best of the last 20 years. Their music has practically soundtracked my entire early adult life and this is why their eighth LP, I Am Easy To Find, is such a disappointment. However, I will readily admit that I say that relative to their masterful discography because as a standalone release IAETF is a good album. It has a pretty and colourful sonic palette and gorgeous vocals. But it lacks a memorable melody and aesthetically it’s all very hollow. It’s pleasant but it comes across as a work of performance art and that’s just not what The National is to me.
4. Death Therapy: Voices
We’re two years removed from Death Therapy’s debut LP, The Storm Before the Calm, and it has become one of my favourite heavy releases of the past few years. It was tightly written, innovative, and wholly original. It was a truly exciting release for Christian metal and Voices is almost its opposite. It’s a bafflingly unfocused record; at once intriguingly experimental and disappointingly generic. I cannot hear the same focused songwriting its predecessor delivered time and time again. I guess I can say there are so many voices that I can’t hear the one I fell in love with.
3. Tiny Moving Parts: breathe
The biggest problem with breathe is not what it does do but rather what it doesn’t. Tiny Moving Parts, one of the founders of the emo-revival that exploded during the early to mid-2010s, balanced the abrasiveness of modern emo with the math-like technicality of mid-western emo in the 90s. Their 2016 effort, Celebrate, is among my favourite emo records of the entire decade. Swell was almost more of the same but it placed a slightly larger emphasis on the pop side of punk. Although breathe is a gentler interpretation of their sound I can’t help but feel the band has come to a bit of a standstill creatively. It isn’t a bad record, merely an underwhelming one that almost makes it certain they won’t top Celebrate anytime soon.
2. Starset: Divisions
Rob Graves is, by quite a large margin, my favourite producer in rock music. He’s worked on all but one album by Red, produced Wavorly’s Conquering the Fear of Flight, my favourite Christian rock album of the 2000s, and both of Starset’s previous albums of which I am a massive fan of. His fingerprints aren’t anywhere to be found on Divisions. Is it any coincidence then that Divisions is a major step down and perhaps one of the dullest rock albums in recent memory? I was happy to say style won out over substance on Starset’s previous material because the hooks were that well-written but this time I just cannot be as forgiving.
1. Wolves at the Gate: Eclipse
From my top five most anticipated albums of the year to the most disappointing, Eclipse is the sound of selling out. The vocal dynamics between Steve Cobucci and Nick Detty are less pronounced and exciting, the production is deceptively sleek, many of the guitars, bass, and drums are drowned by out by the vocals, and the songwriting is cookie-cutter and stylistically cliche. The band’s lyricism remains a strong point but the music it’s delivered on is drab and uninteresting. Eclipse is so out of character for the band that I have to keep double-checking that I’m actually listening to a Wolves at the Gate album. That, my brothers, is what defines a disappointing record.