So once again, I can't get my act together to post about 2012 albums that mean a lot to me until almost March of 2013... Therefore, enough small talk! ONWARD TO THE MUSICS!
First, I will start with the handful of disappointments that I found this year. One of them is disappointing because my expectations were high and then dashed, one has too many flaws that I can't overlook, and one is just a disorganized "too soon" of a release.
1.) Fun. - "Some Nights"
I tried really hard to love this album. When I couldn't do that, I tried really hard to like this album. When I couldn't do that, I tried to tolerate this album. I think that's where I settle for now. It's not terribad, but it sure is lacking. Granted, my expectations for Fun. after 2009's multi-instrumental masterpiece "Aim and Ignite" were soaring. I mean, when you take one part The Format, one part Anathallo, and one part Steel Train, you have talent seeping out every pore of that band. But what I hear on "Some Nights" is self indulgent sell-outitude. They open the album with a crowd's applause for crying out loud...
Yes, the songs are catchy to a fault, to the point of sounding like a whiny younger sibling begging for attention. The creative structures found on "A&I" are gone, replaced with dull repetitious choruses, predictable hooks, rap production backtracks, and (oh dear Lord no) AUTOTUNE! The lyrics don't elucidate anything special (drinking, mistakes, and growing up?), where it could have been the saving grace for Nate Ruess and co. But alas, the only songs that I truly like are merely bonus tracks, like "Out On the Town" and acoustic versions of some of the songs on the regular release.
Fun., lose the producer, get back to basics on your guitars and everything else you can actually play, and don't take phone calls from Chevrolet. And if you're going to write more music, for goodness sake, don't just say the same thing four times in a row and expect it to be a good chorus.
2.) The O.C. Supertones - "For the Glory"
2012 was the year of revival for ska music, especially as far as Christians are concerned. The big 3 all came back from the dead, The Insyderz, Five Iron Frenzy, and The O.C. Supertones. So now, why is this record in the disappointment category? It isn't because it is bad. Far from it. However, there is a lack of intensity and creativity on this album, leaving it mediocre in the Supertones catalog. "All the Way Alive" and title track "For the Glory" start it off with a one-two punch that made me excited to hear what the Tones had been brewing since their reunion. But then from "Hey Hey Hey" onward, the album becomes a blah mess of songs I feel I've heard before, just with new lyrics and outdated horn lines.
The Supertones used to have some songs that rocked hard and heavy ("Unite") with almost rapped verses and a spitting fiery passion for the gospel, and then other songs that let the album breathe with ska swagger, breakdowns that gave the trumpets, saxes, and trombones solo spotlights. But, all of the brass here feels restricted, as if the band was rushed to put the record and couldn't find their personal groove and freedom to let loose.
"Hey Hey Hey," "All Glory," "It's A Good Day to Be From California" all rely way too heavily on hey's and ooh's, coming across as lazy. The later track sounds just like a Michael Franti knockoff. And "Warmth of the Sun" is thrown in there haphazardly, detracting from the album's cohesion.
BUT, like I said above, this is NOT a bad album. The bass lines are killer. Mojo's vocals are in peak form. "Far More Beautiful" is a lovely encouragement to some women close to the band. "On the Downbeat" is definitely a fun song with a little bit of that old Supertones flair (and a trumpet solo)! If you like surf-rock ska with quality production, "For the Glory" will get your legs skanking. But despite this, it still comes across as a bit disappointing to me. Maybe it will grow on me with more listens. Only time will tell.
3.) Band of Horses - "Mirage Rock"
I've been a long time listener and appreciator of Band of Horses. Usually, their quasi-ethereal Americana rock hits me right where I am. I generally love their harmonies and dreamy melodies. They often paint landscapes of wide open fields, longing for home, and lots of nostalgia on a road trip far from the one you love. But plain and simple, "Mirage Rock" is redundant and disorganized.
There are some songs that standout, but as a whole, they should have taken those standout songs, polished them up, kept writing until they had more, and put out a solid work. Instead, from track to track, "Mirage Rock" is hit and miss, again and again
I mourn for what "Mirage Rock" could have been. "Knock Knock" is an excellent kickoff, more rock than I expected, and it was a pleasant change. Then "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" is reminiscent of Neil Young in his prime, weary and beautiful. But then, "A Little Biblical" has this 4/4 chunky guitar line that doesn't change for the whole song. I cannot wrap my head around who thought that was OK.
Sorry, Band of Horses, you didn't fool me! You couldn't intersperse clearly higher quality songs with less thought-out ones and call it a day. As my parents used to tell me in high school, "Make better choices!"
I'm gonna wrap this up now. I'll be back soon with the EPs and full-lengths that made 2012 a SUPER EXCITING year for me musically. Check back soon!