FT5: Disappointing Albums Of 2008

In 2008 we saw all kinds of releases across the board. Noise-pop seemed to be a pretty big deal, as did lo-fi production. But when preparing for our year-end lists, we came across the conundrum of deciding the biggest disappointments in 2008. Today’s Friday Top 5 is full of albums that our staff really looked forward to listening to when they were released, but instead fled in fear as to what our ears had just heard. List is after the jump

5. White Denim – Exposion

Listen, we love Austin music, and even more so, we love to watch this band live. They pull off a live set like very few other bands can, packing as much noise and rock into a set as anyone out there. But, Exposion just doesn’t come through on all the promise. To begin with, the album dances all over the place, barely concentrating on any one style long enough for the band to develop the sound. Yea, that may be part of the live show that melts faces, but I want a record I can turn up to 11 as well. The production quality is muddy at best, which shows a devotion to the live sound or a lack of interest. In the end, it waters down the sound of one of the more promising acts to come out of Austin in recent years.

4. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – Cardinology

Looking back in his catalog, you will find some ridiculously good works from Ryan Adams. Whether you want to look at the pop-country gems he penned in Whiskeytown, or whether you understand the greatness that was Heartbreaker, you have to admit, that is a distant past. Perhaps this is horrible to ask of someone, but can we hear a hurting Ryan Adams again? In all honesty, this album probably would be higher on a list of great disappointments in 2008, had Ryan Adams not consistently released poor albums during the last few years. That’s right, Easy Tiger, and 29 just weren’t good, and I am sorry if die-hard fans follow this guy blindly to amazing lyrics like “go easy.” Controversy or not, this album was just really bad.

3. My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges

Coming from a pretty big MMJ fan, this album was not what we had come to expect from Jim James and crew. When a band gives you an almost perfect album with 2005’s Z, the expectations rise to maybe unattainable levels. This effort isn’t all bad. I’ve quoted several people as saying if you dropped 4-5 of the really mediocre songs on this album, you would have a great EP. The problem stands that the entirely too rock generic songs like “Thank You” and “I’m Amazed” combined with the robot vocals of “Highly Suspicious” left me confused. All you MMJ die hards out there will all say: “It rocks live man”, but that doesn’t hide the fact that Evil Urges will go down as a lackluster album.

2. Kings of Leon – Only by the Night

When this band first burst onto the music scene, they were the South’s answer to The Strokes. Down here in Texas we got really excited; we all yearned to have our own Southern-style hipster band. Years later, the band decided to release Only by the Night. This is nowhere near where the band began. Vocals sound a lot more polished, and there is no sign of the South on this album at all; it smells of Hollywood. The single “Sex on Fire” is up near the top of one of the more worthless songs of the year. The substance of this band is long gone, and with the South out of the way after the Civil War, we can now be rid of Kings of Leon as well. They said goodbye to their beards; we said goodbye to them.

1. Bloc Party – Intimacy

Silent Alarm is probably one of the best debut albums to come out during this decade, especially with regards to expectations and timing. That album let very few people down, and it’s still a joy to listen to nowadays. Then the band stumbled across the sophomore slump, as most bands inevitably do. So 2008 brought us Intimacy. We all crossed our fingers and hoped that the band could regroup after a difficult second outing; we all wanted to love this band so badly once again. Absence of percussion leads one to believe that the band is dedicated to creating a purely danceable album, a la New Order. Unfortunately, this band just doesn’t have the chops to pull it off.  There is no longer intimacy between us, in fact, the band has left us with nothing more than animosity.

Many of you may have some strong feelings about what we have to say on this Friday Top 5, so let’s hear it. Keep it clean…  Next week we’ll be bringing you our much anticipated Top 30 albums of the year.  Get excited!


  • I will have to disagree with #4 . . .

    “Ryan will probably never make another Heartbreaker. But he and the Cardinals are a force to be reckoned with live and when they bring the goods to the studio (like they do for a few tracks on heartbreaker), the results are always breathtaking. A few dudes like Magick hurt but don’t discount the rest because of them. ”

    But #1, #2, and #3 are spot on.

  • sorry . . . . I mistyped that

    should read . . .

    (like they do for a few tracks on CARDINOLOGY)

  • Good List. Bloc Party definitely isn’t the same band that released silent alarm. I listened to a few tracks from the new album and it was “like eating glass”.

  • two out of five, (evil urges, and only by the night,) I was looking forward to so much this year, that I simply refused to be disappointed. I forced myself to listen to these so much that I am made to like them.

    I’m still in the denial phase of grief, but you couldn’t convince me otherwise.

    MMJ – I agree that similar to Bloc Party, it is very tough to follow up a perfect album. I don’t fault jim for trying to take it to the next level and not do the same thing over and over. That being said, there are plenty of good songs on this album. just not all of them. Is it as good as Z? No. But i can count on one hand the number of albums I like as much as Z. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good album.

    KOL – I disagree. I’ve got nothing against filling out these songs, arena rock, etc… Would you honestly want to play in a band the rest of your life that sounds like they just picked up instruments and are speaking English for the first time? Count me among the few (very few) that couldn’t stand the first album, and think they got better with each new album. More complex songs, better musicianship, SINGING…

  • kings of leon-only by the night? thats a little harsh, man. just because its not what you thought it would be doesnt mean that it isnt a solid album. each track sounds different and is very well-done. i agree with bRETT, they have definitely gotten better with each album, they are becoming one of the great bands of the decade, the vocals are incredible and they musicianship is strong. i can see being disappointed that they may be becoming too mainstream, but a good album is a good album, no matter what the popularity. when music blogs start to understand this, i will take their year-end top lists seriously.

  • I think the KOL album comes down to an opinion of tastes. Personally, I thought that the best work KOL did was when they came off sloppy and Southern. I had hope that they would go back that direction, but instead they just sound too polished; for me it just isn’t interesting. It has nothing to do with going mainstream; I like some mainstream tunes, but this band just isn’t doing it for me, so I was disappointed.

  • Don’t be too dismayed about Ryan Adams. He’ll still release about seventeen more albums before the year is through, and I’m sure at least one of them will be all right. Right?

  • Yeah don’t pull out the “we don’t like it because it’s mainstream” card. We like plenty of “mainstream” stuff. I listened to KOL and liked a few songs on it at first, but it just bores me to tears. Caleb was quoted as saying: “We made this album to make it big in the states”. Soooo you basically made it to gain popularity? If that’s your reason behind making music, then find a new job. Every friend I talked to that said they saw them in Austin said they just seem to have last some fire for what they are doing.

    I’ll even go so far as to agree with you Wendy/Brett that the band has shown some great progress in musicianship and the album is very polished. I just don’t think playing your instruments well and having nice production make this a good album. Hell if all you need is good musicianship and good production, shouldn’t we be talking about that new Daughtry album right now? This was their sad and far too rushed attempt at trying to recreate Because of the Times and they failed with Snow Patrol sounding crap like “Use Somebody”. Informal surveys tell me that fans who’ve been around from the beginning are completely alienated(me) and the new fans are middle school students. I don’t think this band keeps it together for more than another couple years.

  • Oh and about Ryan Adams.. I really enjoyed Ryan’s first two efforts with the Cardinals; Cold Roses & Jacksonville City Night. Those albums had some really solid country/rock songs with great lyrics and heartfelt hooks. This new album though has very little, if any, of those things. I think if you took the good songs off 29, Easy Tiger, and this new one, you would have a very solid album worthy to stand next to Ryan’s previous work. His last 3 albums have had some good songs, but also some really crappy ones too. The man needs to self edit.

  • ok ok, you dont have to like KOL anymore if you dont want to…thats one less hipster know-it-all i have to deal with at their shows… 😉 i do like your blog, i just enjoy disagreeing from time to time. the rest of this list is legit.

  • We love the comments wendy. Many thanks for them, positive or negative.
    Check this excited, intense band:

    and tell me you really want this boring ass band not interested in what they are doing:

    Sorry, I just can’t take this new thing they’ve got going. Thanks again for the comments 🙂

  • Portishead -Third? Anyone? The last proper album they made was ELEVEN years ago. Expectations can (and did) grow mighty high with eleven years of anticipation. IMO this album trumps all in the disappointment column of 2008. Pitchfork can kiss my ass for giving it an 8.8.

    KOL at #2 is rather bold. Definitely belongs on the list, just not quite as high. It’s obviously not the same KOL that lured me in, but I still enjoy a handful of the new tracks. I guess I’m hesitant to say I don’t like what they’ve become until I’m certain they’ve “gone for the bucks” for good. If we never get the old KOL sound back, this album would be a turning point that absolutely deserves to be #2… it’s just to early to say for me.

  • Chinese Democracy. I’d been waiting since the fifth grade…

  • The south is not lost with KOL…sounds like the southern support is lost. ‘Because of the Times’ sounded Hollywood. I think they got back on track and you can hear their early influence much more clear this latest album. But you can also hear why these guys opened for U2 when nobody, especially in the southern US cared about them: Uber talent. This is the best band of our generation and yes there is a struggle with record company influence, but they are finally being accepted in this country and they will stand up for their roots. The beards will return and this band can only get better.

  • Great post!

    As a KOL fan that jumped on the bandwagon way late in the game, I for one really liked that I was able to understand what they were saying when listening their songs, and I liked the “musicianship” even more. That being said, unfortunately I’m not sure I think the lyrics off of Only By The Night are anything worth hearing. Because the lyrics are pretty ridiculous, I think the songs as a whole come out to be great background music at a good bar: they’ll keep energy up and hold the mood, but you don’t have to listen to what they’re saying.

    As for Ryan Adams, I have kinda given up on him since he cleaned things up in his personal life. I liked some of Easy Tiger, but have mostly given into the idea that I’ll be listening to Jacksonville City Nights for the Ryan Adams that I fell in love with. Thankfully, I never get tired of that.

    I’m not sure if I am more impressed by the controversy this post caused or by the sudden presence emoticons have in ATH these days!?

  • Sadly, I agree with this list.

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