Top 5 Music Acts I’m the Least Optimistic About

As a follow up to my 5 Most Exciting Music Acts post, I’m going to go through some of the artists whose next album I’m pretty pessimistic about (at least, relative to their previous output).

5. Nine Inch Nails

I consider myself a Nine Inch Nails fan, but taking a bit of retrospective on the past 10 years, I’m not sure if I’ve really liked anything since The Fragile (1999).  Now, I loved The Fragile.  It’s probably on my top 10 albums list and maybe even top 5.  But I’ve been successively disappointed with each new release: With Teeth (2005), Year Zero (2007), and The Slip (2008).  I kind of liked Ghosts I-IV (2008), but my lofty expectations for a NIN instrumental album were probably out of proportion and thus, not met.  The albums have been well-received by critics, but the albums just don’t seem to be that ambitious.  All the songs are in between 3.5 to 5 minutes and all have the same ingredients.  I especially don’t understand this for The Slip.  For a self released album, it seems like Reznor should have used the opportunity to make something more experimental and push some proverbial envelopes, but this didn’t happen.  While other bands get flak for changing their style, the truth of it is that you have to change.  Reznor might be stagnating, though this could be the effect of him releasing more than one album every five years.

4. Gnarls Barkley

We all know how big of a chart smasher “Crazy” was, but the rest of St. Elsewhere (2006) was pretty good, too.  “Go-Go Gadget Gospel” and “Gone Daddy Gone” brought Danger Mouse’s plucky, understated melodies with Cee-Lo’s soulful vocals.  “Feng Shui” and “Transformer” were unusual bites of genre-less music and overall St. Elsewhere brought together a bunch of different sounds and made it work.  The Odd Couple (2008), on the other hand, was much more polished and uniform.  I see what the duo was trying to do here, but I like Danger Mouse most when he keeps it simplest as he did for “Crazy” (the song really is simple in terms of the voicing, which is part of what makes it so strong) and Gorillaz’ “Kids With Guns”.  Though I don’t think it would be reasonable to expect Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse to pull off another “Crazy”, I don’t know if they get another spark to make anything as original as St. Elsewhere.

3. Sasha

Despite it’s misplaced numeric character, Invol2ver (2008) was an album I was an album for which I had lofty expectations.  After all, Involver (2004) was one of the most clever mix albums I’ve listened to.  The tracklist was bold, featuring an array of diverse artists such as Shpongle, Ulrich Schnauss, and Felix da Housecat.  Sasha mostly just tweaked the tracks enough to give them the feel he was looking for and left most of the melodic elements intact.  Invol2ver had a similarly exciting set of artists with Thom Yorke, Ladytron, and Telefon Tel Aviv.  But Sasha seemed to get caught up in the God-like powers that Ableton Live gives you and just demolished each one of the tracks in his tracklist.  He reassembled only bits and pieces of each track, rendering each one of the tracks almost unrecognizable.  Severely disappointing.  I must admit I’m a little optimistic though, as his material released on emFire has been decent.

2. The Smashing Pumpkins

I’m never not going to be interested in The Smashing Pumpkins, but that doesn’t mean I have to optimistic and their next album.  Hopeful – yes, but not optimistic.  I’ve made my feelings clear enough on Zeitgeist (2008).  I really thought Zeitgeist was a step backwards from where they had left off in 2000 (a step forward from Zwan, but that isn’t saying much).  I would like to see The Smashing Pumpkins tone it down on the tech angle or at least refocus it to something more existential like Machina (2000), rather than overtly political like Zeitgeist.

1. Interpol

I was a bit late to the Interpol party, but even I can recognize that Turn on the Bright Lights (2002) is still the band’s high point and one of the definitive post-punk revival albums.  Antics (2004) was a respectable album with some solid singles and decent album songs, but nothing inspiring.  Our Love to Admire (2007), on the other hand, failed to have any sort of true standout tracks (“The Heinrich Maneuver” was pretty good, but didn’t bring anything new to the table).  The whole of the album is forgettable and I’m not optimistic on Interpol rediscovering the magic.

Arbitrary song of the day: Ricardo Villalobos – Enfants (Chants)


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