WU LYF - Go tell fire to the moutain
These guys should be renamed WTF in honour of the slew of unremarkable bollocks they threw out by way of a debut. What exactly is so great about a bunch of guys from Manchester singing about 'Bros' over a church organ and some flaccid Afrobeat riffs? Another exercise is misjudged hype for an upcoming UK act, I had high hopes for these dudes but their record was a turgid load of soundalike crap with no outstanding tunes and some of the year's most irritating vocals. For clarity's sake let me assure you that they have no connection with the Wu Tang Clan, their record is shite and any attempt to engage with their music will make your LYF miserable.
Tuneyards - Whokill
A favourite of the Guardian/Pitchfork crew, I had a sneaky suspicion that this wasn't going to be my cup of tea before I even heard it. But you have to remain open-minded about these things. Ten tracks of meandering free jazz bollocks later I wished I'd listened to my instinct and ignored the fucking thing. This is the sort of crap those irritating hippies at the Occupy protests probably cream themselves over - pretentious pseudo-African jam session wankery churned out by some bird that everyone is proclaiming as some sort of musical genius because she records drum loops live on stage and plays the fucking ukelele. And she spells her band name in a daft way too. What more do you need to know? tHiS FUcKiNg SUckS.
Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus
OK, not one that would have crossed the path of those of you uninterested in death metal but this merits a mention for the way in which Morbid Angel managed to surprise and offend huge sections of their fanbase with their first new material in eight years. David Vincent's return to the fold was widely applauded and yielded some amazing live shows but his interval years spent playing as part of Genitorturers was always going to rear its head at some point. It wasn't so much the excerpts of Skeletor techno the band tried to crowbar in, it was the weakness of their straightforward death metal material that prompted disappointment (at least when they still had Steve Tucker at the helm they could break out the humongously heavy shit). A brave move but ultimately a futile one.
Dropkick Murphys - Going out in style
When I first got into them, DKM were full-frontal punk rock, fast and aggressive in all the right places without the holier-than-thou humourless of standard hardcore. Fast forward a decade and they're throwing out increasingly toothless albums of cartoon Irish punk to audiences that look like they'd be more at home at an Avril Lavigne show. I've got nothing against bands growing up, and it's perhaps inevitable that their material was going to become more and more family friendly and consequently less potent but did they really need become so fucking domesticated? All they need now are recurring cameos on some shitty US sitcom about the average Irish-American family and we'll have a full on career prolapse on our hands.
The View - Bread and Circuses
In retrospect, The View's debut 'Hats off to the Buskers' dropped just before the door slammed shut on the British rock boom of the mid-noughties. They managed to notch up a #1 album and rack up a few hits but their fall from grace since 'Same Jeans' went top 3 in early 2007 has been tragic to behold yet somehow inevitable. Even a stonking follow-up in 2009 couldn't stop the rot - all the singles flopped and they disappeared from view completely (no pun intended). 'Bread and Circuses' will change positively nothing in all that - it's not an awful record by any length but the sheer lack of ambition of it seems doomed to keep them in indie obscurity for the near future. I still believe they could come back with something brilliant if they can stay off the drugs long enough to record it, but for now they're back in the bargain bin. Bummer.
Panda Bear - Tomboy
The Bear's previous effort 'Person Pitch' (also a highlight of 2007) was an absolute belter and proved the gateway (at least for me) to the world of Animal Collective and their oddball hypnotic charms. Thing is, the Collective have still only done one decent album for my money (2009's 'Merriweather Post Pavillion') and the rest of their stuff tends to veer towards nondescript sonic mush, nice enough if you're sat around too sedated to change it to something more interesting but ultimately not worth shelling out actual money for. 'Tomboy' unfortunately falls into this category - where 'Person Pitch' was fascinating and trance-like, this is just meandering and vaguely ethereal but won't have you rushing back for a second listen. Four years is a long time between albums too and you have to wonder if anyone's still interested.
Radiohead - The King of Limbs
Another Radiohead album. Great. Am I the only one who found 'Kid A' and 'Amnesiac' pleasing on the ear but had to practically force myself to give a shit about any of their later releases? So they bypass record companies and sell their own stuff for negociable prices? BIG DEAL. That just sounds like a gimmick to distract you from the fact that nobody apart from anally-fixated Radiohead fanatics and smarmy music journalists give a flying fuck when they put out a new record. This whole album flew by without diverting my attention once from scratching my bollocks or whatever I was doing whilst streaming it - hardly justification for the number of 'best of 2011' lists it's made its way onto. Unless you're one of their long term advocates, there are ZILLIONS of other records worth listening to right now above this.
Metallica & Lou Reed - Lulu
Do I really need to explain this one? Truth be told I gave up on Metallica a LONG time ago but even my inherent cynicism towards their new stuff couldn't have prepared me for this. The metal equivalent of that Kevin Rowland record where he started performing in drag, 'Lulu' is a masterclass in patience-testing pretentiousness that will satisfy fans of neither artist. You have to feel for 'tallica followers, they've been put through a lot over the years with shitty covers albums, classical reworkings, rehab movies and numerous money-grabbing attempts to capitalise on their 80s heyday but THIS? Look up 'I AM A TABLE' on Youtube and watch their fans quarrel over whether Hetfield and co have lost their minds, it's hilarious.
M83 - Hurry up we're dreaming
This is maybe a little harsh as I'd originally shortlisted it for the best-of selection but changed my mind as the charm wore a little thin. Basically a double album soundtrack to a brother and sister locked in 80s nostalgia dreamland, the more I listened to kids' voices wibbling about 'cupcakes', the more it reminded me why I don't like Michel Gondry films and this could be the perfect soundtrack to one of his more dorky efforts. Not ultimately an unpleasant listen, it just feels a wee bit contrived and stuck in and inwardly looking rut of cultural nostalgia. Twee, self-indulgent and overlong, it just lacks BALLS. Again not a bad record per se but doubtless one made for folks more forgiving than myself. It's just too fucking NICE for my tastes.
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Hahahaha! Go ahead and choke on your drink. Let me explain myself - this is actually a really good album. My logic in including it on this list is just to point out that it's not significantly better than any other PJ Harvey album out there, she's been cranking out consistently good records for two decades now and they only seem to get picked up on when the rest of the contenders for 'most awesome album of the year' are so far below par that her record rises effortlessly to the summit (see 'Stories from the city....' in 2000 for another example). Polly Jean merely acts as a barometer against which you can measure the mediocrity of the rest of the music industry - right now she's showing up how average the competition is. Don't let that put you off this record, it's great - just no better or worse than her other ones.