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Death From Above 1979 are releasing a new album this fall. 10 years after their excellent debut You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, we’re getting new music from the Toronto two-piece. Can it live up to the hype? It can not. Time makes the heart grow fonder and unless DFA1979 are able to give people new hearts, it will inevitably be a disappointment. This is not the bands fault. It’s time’s fault. Remarkable greatness is damn near impossible to follow up. The more time between records, the harder it becomes for an artist to deliver a piece of art that’s on par with former genius.

We’re looking at the most disappointing albums of all time, according to our collective taste. Albums sales don’t mean anything. Michael Jackson’s HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I has sold 25 million units. Once again, albums sales don’t mean anything. This list is based purely on taste.

Good luck, D’Angelo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Avalanches, MF Doom, Dr. Dre, etc. We want your new album but the more time that passes, the greater the expectation. That being said, hurry up. Kill your darlings. Let’s hear something. Or not. Stay young forever.

My Bloody Valentine MBV (2013)

It’s a very good record. It’s not a classic. A very good record 22 years after a classic record is a disappointment. In a completely unscientific poll, multiple music fan friends forgot this record was released. That’s a disappointment.

Once again, this is a very good record. -Brandon Wetherbee

Grimes Visions (2012)

On the heels of a couple of very very good albums and a very great split EP with fellow Canadian electronic artist d’Eon that gave the world “Crystal Ball”, Grimes readied Visions for release on Arbutus Records, and was then promptly snatched up by 4AD.

What such a seminal label heard in Grimes’ earlier work is undeniable: an intense promise from an up-and-coming electronic composer/vocalist with a persona seemingly fully-formed from the get-go. What they heard in Visions to choose that album as their introduction of Grimes to the larger world is unfathomable. In terms of her musical output, it’s so tiny that it’s regressive, fitting better in her catalog as a tentative first record than the massive artistic art piece it was received as. At best, it’s a hesitant go at making bedroom laptop experimentation sound big-room, and at worst it’s a silly, childish appropriation of Garageband preset. Granted, not everyone can be an Ikonika or an Ellen Allien, but fumbling your first record for 4AD is unforgivable and just damn unfortunate. -Russ Marshalek

Jay-Z & Kanye West Watch the Throne (2011)

There was so much hype built around the collaborative album between the mentor/mentee/manatee/whatever what it had to be at least decent, right? Then again, there’s a lot of hype around every new release these days, and the “is the internet killing the music industry” debate is reminiscent of the ongoing “will wearing a bra give you cancer?” nonsense that “scientists” and morning radio show hosts have been reviving for decades. No, Watch the Throne is not a good album. This album features Kanye in the middle of an upward trend as far as grandiose and absurd (but clever nonetheless) lyrics go, and Jay-Z taking a more supposedly laid back approach because he’s supposed to be the one that’s been there, done that, seen it all. Laid back just comes off as lazy. And the singles off this album are its strongest tracks, but what’s left after that is pretty tame, when the entire album should deliver blow after blow.

If 50% of your team isn’t putting in the work, the album is mediocre at best. This is not a middle school science project you did all the work for while your partner slacked off and played Pokemon. -Farrah Skeiky

The Pipettes Earth vs. The Pipettes (2010)

The Pipettes were perfect. They weren’t good. They weren’t great. In the summer of 2006, they were a perfect fucking thing. They had it all: the lookthe videos, the dance moves, the songs. Oh lord, the songs. There were 14 on We Are The Pipettes, and each one was built like a brick house. It was all a gimmick, of course – the creation of a slightly mysterious behind-the-scenes svengali who called himself Monster Bobby. Whoever he was, Monster Bobby knew his way around a song, and he executed a vision to the polka dot: the stacked production of Phil Spector’s girl groups meets self-aware, clever, and refreshingly modern commentary. Shapes were pulled. Kisses were wasted. One night stands were kicked out the door the next morning.

A summer later, Gweno, RiotBecki, and Rosay (one, two, three – let’s go) visited the Black Cat, where they shimmied and finger-wagged their way into my heart forever.  This was the poster. It’s up in my apartment right now.

As time passed, RiotBecki and Rosay would leave the group. This was obviously not a good sign. But I still held out hope.  If Monster Bobby was the Wizard of Oz, would it matter who was singing?  By 2010, the Pipettes were down to Gweno and her newly recruited sister, and together they made Earth vs. The Pipettes. If I had never heard We Are the Pipettes, I might laugh off its attempt to revive ABBA’s decaying body and take it to the club.  But I had heard We Are the Pipettes, so fuck this album. Its songs were tacky and overcooked, and worst of all, they transformed the Pipettes from sassy forces of nature into helpless subjects. They had gone from “It Hurts to See You Dance So Well” and “Because It’s Not Love (But It’s Still a Feeling)” to shit like “Captain Rhythm”. I mean, just look at the cover art for two LPs: amazing and horrific.

But a deepest and darkest confession? I still secretly like “Stop the Music”. Don’t tell Judy. -Phil Runco

Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy (2008)

The soundtrack to every couple that met at a state fair and divorced by the following year’s state fair. Also, no Slash. No Slash, no good GNR. -Brandon Wetherbee

Tenacious D The Pick of Destiny (2006)

The D released one of the few comedy albums that warrants multiple listens. “Kielbasa,” “Tribute,” “Dio,” and “Friendship” make their 2001 self-titled LP debut something that you don’t have to cringe when it comes up on shuffle. The same can not be said of the follow up, the soundtrack to the movie musical (?) The Pick of Destiny. It’s a horrible movie and a very bad album. Thankfully, the D know this. Their third record, 2012’s Rize of the Fenix, admits past sins with the first single, “Rize of the Fenix.” -Brandon Wetherbee

OutKast Idlewild (2006)

What does the biggest hip-hop duo in history, the first to win the Album of the Year Grammy, do to follow-up their massively successful double-album? A 1930’s based movie musical! Two things you forgot happened! Lest we forget, here’s the single, “The Mighty O.” It’s not a complete throwaway, but it does not need to exist. At all. This is Andre in Four Brothers pointless. -Brandon Wetherbee

Eminem ƎNCORE (2004)

“Mosh?” -Brandon Wetherbee


Lauryn Hill MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 (2002)

It can be said that the miseducation of Lauryn Hill is ultimately what led to her undoing, and her greatest artistic failure. Released on May 7, 2002, Lauryn’s live recording of her MTV-aired Unplugged 2.0 special is one of the most heartbreaking failures in the history of modern music. It’s the ultimate agony after picture-perfect ecstasy, when the divine becomes human, the ethereal devolving into the commonplace.

Foremost, it’s important to note that this album can actually be considered terrible on purpose. Lauryn’s 1998 debut album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is so mature of a work for a female rap artist’s debut album that it’s almost inappropriate to refer to it as such. It sold ten million copies worldwide within one year of its release, and followed up Hill’s work on rap trio the Fugees’ second album, 1996’sThe Score, which was certified six-times platinum by the RIAA. How four years existed between Hill’s highly-respected album and a live unplugged second release is how the album ends up as terrible on purpose, and, again, is easily one of the most heartbreaking stories in the history of modern music.

It’s still questionable if Lauryn Hill and Fugees bandmate Wyclef Jean were in a romantic relationship in 1996 when they went to Jamaica to recorda cover of “No Woman, No Cry” with the family of Bob Marley. However, between that trip and the release of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the dynamic of the Fugees changed (the group split for the first time in 1997).

After returning from Jamaica, Lauryn announced she was pregnant, and began seriously dating (but not marrying)Bob Marley’s son Rohan, the father of her son Zion. From that point, she wrote 30 songs, whittled them into an incredible album that discusses pregnancy, child birth, women’s liberation and social equality in a hip and relevant manner, casting her as not just a pop star, but as a rquasi-revolutionary social icon and female role model for a generation of women (and men) who now likely age between 25-40 years old.

Between 1998-2002, the weight of expectation and perils of so much success so fast ultimately caused the fracturing and dissolution of Hill’s career. At the end of 1998, the session musicians on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill filed suit claiming they were not correctly credited. With marriage (or lack thereof) to Rohan Marley still at issue, Hill also wanted to pursue developing a family, and between 1998-2001 birthed three children with Marley. If Columbia Records has spent $2.5 million dollars as of 2013 waiting on album three, it’s amazing to contemplate how much time, energy and money they spent waiting on album two during this time. Balancing family issues with legal issues, all compounded by what Hill called “[confronting her] fears and master every demonic thought about inferiority, about insecurity or the fear of being black, young and gifted in (this) western culture,” Hill’s anticipated follow-up shouldn’t have been anticipated at all.

On one level, with Columbia Records significantly in the hole on Lauryn’s second album, it’s entirely possible to see that Columbia Records forced Hill’s hand to release her July 2001 taped Unplugged set as an album. Yes, Hill was pregnant with her third child, yes, she was only armed with an acoustic guitar, and yes, her songs were at varying stages of completion, but, the label had waited three years for an album that it clearly could have appeared to them wasn’t coming. Thus, we the listening public were treated to a double album that featured brilliant moments like the most complete of her songs, “Just Like Water,” a mellifluous ballad about spiritual salvation.

For the most part, the album starts as an intimate concert. However, in listening twelve years later with a far more educated and aware ear, the album is far more about a genius pushed over the edge to the brink of insanity, instead off just being a quality listen. The material gifts, desire to raise a family and all of the apparent trappings of success are ultimately too much when weighed against the court of public opinion that wants her to conform to what that success has typically meant, instead of allowing her to forge her own path.

Disc One features more songs that have significant structure. “Mr. Intentional” and “Adam Lives In Theory” are a proper blend of  Alanis Morrissette and MC Lyte with a side dish of Sinead O’Connor, so much intrigue and bitterness shoved into a song allowing it to bloat to a still listenable six or seven minute long tirade. “Rebel” leads into “Water,” which feels completely on purpose, Hill using the MTV platform to play music in the same manner that Pince scrawled “slave” on his face when faced with a label and industry standing against his creativity.

However, by disc two, the veneer of togetherness is gone, and the soon to be mother of three delvers 15 minutes of interludes and 24 minutes of songs. It’s in this moment where the album fails. It’s that moment that we all should dread, that moment when we all met our hero(ine) in real life and she let us down. 16 million albums later, she had allowed the machinations of the music industry and real life tear her asunder, leaving a shell of a one-time holier than thou, superstar of a lifetime.

Unplugged 2.0 shipped platinum in the United States and Canada, but had no significant pushes of singles and was likely an overall financial flop for Columbia Records. Though those numbers would not immediately scream failure, it’s like the moment that boxing fans saw James “Buster” Douglas knock Mike Tyson out in 1990 Though he still had worth as a man, he had lost his worth as a hero. When your only job in the world is to be heroic, and you appear to have failed at it, humankind is so nasty and bitter that it likely never wants to see you either again, or not invest emotional attachment in you for a very long time. -Marcus Dowling

Phish Round Room (2002)

Phish announced an “extended time-out” in the Summer of 2000 after a long run of (relatively) critical and commercial successes with their studio albums: Billy Breathes > The Story of the Ghost > Farmhouse, and live albums: A Live One > Slip Stitch and Pass > Hampton Comes Alive. They were arguably at the height of their prowess and popularity, but claimed that after 17 years they just needed a break. Hippies wondered around aimlessly crying for two and a half years, and then the band unexpectedly returned with a new studio album and reunion tour. The songs on Round Room were rehearsed at The Barn, and then instead of editing / re-recording / cleaning them up, they released them as is on Dec 10th, 2002. The band claims they liked the loose impromptu feeling of the recording. OK, but during the hiatus the official Live Phish series had been released and both the fervor and ease of bootleg live recording trading had increased, meaning there was plenty of loose impromptu Phish to go around. The point of a Phish studio album was to experience something different from the live setting, and the release of what essentially amounted to demo tracks just came off as lazy. It didn’t help either that the songs, for the most part, were forgettable and uninspired. Plus they were competing with the beginning of mainstream indie, with modern classics such as Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Turn on the Bright Lights, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. A couple years later they released one more turd, broke up, and Trey had a bunch of drug problems, making the whole reunion seem like a bad idea. Luckily the band eventually sobered up, reunited, and have been playing great shows since 2009. Their one post reunion album wasn’t an embarrassment and they have a new one out later this month, which sounds great so far, and will hopefully help to further erase the hiatus memories.

BONUS: some hipster sophomore albums I remember being very disappointed in after an obsession with their first albums that I haven’t bothered to revisit to confirm but pretty sure I’m right:

Bloc Party A Weekend in the City
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Some Loud Thunder
Franz Ferdinand You Could Have It So Much Better


*NSYNC Celebrity (2001)

Rather than a No Strings Attached sequel, treat Celebrity as a Justified prequel. The genre is varied, but it’s never executed well, save for Timberlake’s voice. By 2001, the boy band schtick had waned, but the group still grasped to it. Want a solid, sweet, well produced and soulful album? Buy The 20/20 Experience. Want the *NSYNC at their prime? Buy their eponymous first album. Keep “Pop,” for nostalgic reasons, but ditch the rest of the unmemorable, and half assed, songs. Three albums in, having five guys sing “Are you doing your thing and doing it good” in harmony on an R&B track sounds a little too gang bang-esque anyway. -Brandon Weight

Metallica Load (1996)

Metallica fans waited 6 years for another Metallica album, patiently keeping their hair long and their T-shirts black. When Load debuted in 1996 it gave Metallica their biggest opening week to date. Numbers are irrelevant. The album was a goddamn disgrace. Don’t believe me? One of their singles is called “Ain’t My Bitch.” The greatest disappointment to come from this album, however, was their freshly shorn locks. Like Samson, Metallica’s true strength lived in that hair. Without it they were just a bunch of dads trying to regain their youth by starting a late-in-life cover band. Sorry boys, but heavy is the head that wears the crown, eh King Nothing? -Jenn Tisdale

The Stone Roses Second Coming (1994 UK, 1995 US)

It’s a cliche to say that Second Coming by the Stone Roses was the most disappointing follow-up ever. Not merely the Sophomore Slump (a syndrome I’ve addressed in these very pages in the past), but more of a steaming Sophomore Dump. It’s hard to describe the feeling that surrounded popular music at the time. The Stone Roses emerged in 1988, at a moment when the giants of indie music all seemed to have reached a point of exhaustion – the days of 9 minute remixes of songs that didn’t seem all that interesting in the first place – the sound of treading water. The Roses came out of nowhere, throwing C-86 jangle pop into a cauldron of snaking, liquid bass, irresistible percussion, and snotty vocals, all served up with breathtaking arrogance. The series of jaw-dropping singles from May 1988’s Sally Cinnamon, to the mid-1989 self-titled (could it be anything else?) debut album and album singles with their attendant b-sides (that any other band would have given an arm to release as a-sides) was perfection itself. But then came November and their first non-/post-album single, “What the World Is Waiting for” – what a name! What arrogance! And yet it was a brilliant, loose-limbed, irresistible tune, instantly overshadowed by what may be the greatest b-side of all time, “Fool’s Gold” (yes, it was a non-album b-side). In a moment, they had re-written the rules of indie rock, as though the Smiths had teamed up with the Aphex Twin to make something better than both. The world was waiting for the Stone Roses, and they delivered. So, how to follow up?

Rumors swirled, and years passed. This was 1989, mind you, and Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine would both repeat the trick of combining guitar indie with dance rhythms to great effect (Loaded and Soon, respectively), while an ever-dwindling crowd awaited the second album by the Roses. Surely, they would reclaim the space they had created and ceded to the Scream and MBV. It had to be, right? The court cases and swapped producers and screaming egos and problems mounted, while delays continued. Some of us, me included, thought that they had locked in the brilliant follow-up that would continue this staggering upward trajectory, but were caught out by bad business and legal dealings. Besides, the time it took to break the album free just meant more time to hone and perfect the songs, right? Instead, in November 1994, “Love Spreads” and its swampy, classic rock trudge, smeared in boredom and excess, excreted itself into the marketplace. “Ten Storey Love Song,” a decent, if overly-long ode to Stone Roses b-sides, trickled out next. “Ride On” pointed towards some sort of creativity, and the afterthought of “Begging You” showed the only glimmer of late-era creativity that could have pointed towards a way forward. The album dies a deserved and shameful death, like an alcoholic clown at a child’s birthday party. Let’s never speak of it again. -William Alberque

Sinead O’Connor Am I Not Your Girl (1992)

Sinead O’Connor’s third release in 1992 was on the heels of her immensely successful I Do Not Want What I haven’t Got, an album that refined her experimental beginnings and yielded the timeless, and Prince penned, “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

The press and the world was waiting with baited breath to see what she would do next. She was seriously supposed to be the savior of music. So she released Am I Not Your Girl: an album of… wait for it… covers of jazz standards. -Andrew Bucket

Richard Wagner Götterdämmerung (1876)

This highly anticipated conclusion to Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen series of operas (known as the Ring Cycle) largely fell flat upon it’s release, sending it’s creator fleeing into exile to avoid creditors. Yet, Wagner’s unwavering belief in Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Art) bore an uncanny resemblance to a certain moustachioed Austrian’s obsession with Total War and, despite its commercial and critical failure, it became the centerpiece of a 360 marketing campaign, starting with Joseph Goebbels’ famous essay in NME, “Richard Wagner und das Kunstempfinden unsure Zeit” (“Richard Wagner and the feeling of art in our times”), which delineated anti-semitism as the highest of hipster sensibilities. Unfortunately for Wagner, earlier critical sensibilities prevailed over smug advertising, and Götterdämmerung now has the popular meaning of “a disastrous conclusion of events.” Adding insult to Hitler Stache injury, in the 60’s, so my mother swears up and down, a quality Saturday night for beatniks was to dress up as various characters from Norse mythology, eat a bunch of acid, and puke from the balconies of the Met during a Wagner performance.

FUN FACT: Googling “Hitler Stache” led to the discovery that this specific style of facial hair is officially known as the “Toothbrush Mustache” -Legba Carrefour