Periodically over the course of the new year, we will produce two lists to highlight a few of each month's new albums. This list spans multiple genres, with each album ordered best to worst – the first list is the former, the second is the latter. Now presenting, with 50 total albums on both lists, the Ones You Might Want to Avoid - - -
⭐⭐ Pretty Decent / Recommended to Genre Fans Only
Alice Boman – Dream On
Alice Boman is part of the “melancholic indie singer/songwriter” genre that has blown up in recent years. As a debut, there are enough good worthwhile songs, and the whole thing has a nice lo-fi vibe as well. Fans of the genre will get plenty from the atmospheric, meditative tracks like “The More I Cry” and “Everybody Hurts.”
Check this song out: “The More I Cry”
Stabbing Westward – Dead and Gone [EP]
Definitely one for the fans, since there are only 3 songs and 2 remixes. The single “Dead and Gone” is great, one of their finest sounding songs and the other two are solid.
Check this song out: “Dead and Gone”
Courteeners – More. Again. Forever.
Courteeners may not quite have the pop-songwriting chops to quite distinguish themselves from like-minded bands, but the dance-y grooves added into More. Again. Forever. are still well-employed. An enjoyable and lively experience overall, the standouts on the album are the classic irresistible indie-dance rock singles (all in the opening half).
Check this song out: “Hanging Off Your Cloud”
Destroyer – Have We Met
Considering how good Ken was, and the near-perfection of Poison Season, fans will undoubtedly be a bit disappointed by Have We Met. Dan Bejar’s continued imbalance of interesting music with his “theatrical-by-monotony” frontman presence keeps this album from rising to the heights of his recent past, but it’d be a good album from any other performer.
Check this song out: “It Just Doesn’t Happen”
Black Lips – Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart
So I guess Black Lips is a country band now? Not what many listeners would have picked for them, but all-in-all the result is not bad, with a handful of effectively written country-fied songs and a whole lot of steel-string guitar. The band was clearly having lots of fun with the music – it's hard not to enjoy it when that happens.
Check this song out: “Odelia”
Dune Rats – Hurry Up and Wait
Full of swagger and raucous humor, Australian band Dune Rats may not be progressing music much, but they are having lots of fun playing this classic-sounding midtempo punk rock music. Now debuting on BMG, the album is still exactly the same sound as their previous indie releases – they are clearly not changing their approach anytime soon, so their rowdy fans can rest easy.
Check this song out: “Rubber Arm”
Squirrel Flower – I Was Born Swimming
Kind of like a worse version of Weyes Blood but with more standard indie instrumentation, this album seems conceptually strong but winds up a little too narrow in its scope. Still, her songwriting and lyricism are strong throughout, making for a promising debut release from this Bostonian indie rocker. The expansiveness she finds in some songs marks a significant distinction from likeminded artists, and when balanced with her intimate approach, she occasionally finds that perfect blend.
Check this song out: “Headlights”
Marcus King – El Dorado
Marcus King may borrow more than a little from classic soul, but the Dan Auerbach production never disappoints. When everything clicks, King's music can be pretty exceptional (a few of the slower numbers elicit the best emotive performances). His guitar playing is downplayed in favor of more melodic songwriting, so it’s a good listen for anyone who can look past the lack of originality.
Check this song out: “Young Man’s Dream”
Sarah Mary Chadwick – Please Daddy
The moments when Chadwick really digs into each song is truly heart-wrenching. Please Daddy is not exactly the easiest to listen to, despite its indie singer-songwriter sound; her lyrics are simply brutal, culminating with “All Lies,” a uniquely affecting statement. Definitely not for everyone.
Check this song out: “The Heart and Its Double”
⭐ Not Good / Only Some Could Enjoy
Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman
This indie-folk supergroup has a nice sound, they just don’t really do it for me. The hundred-year-old legacies of their song choices are completely neutralized into something that would sound perfectly normal today. Makes you wonder why they didn’t try to make anything more out of it.
Mura Masa – R.Y.C.
The five full tracks with guests on R.Y.C. are the only ones retaining the inkling of promise in Mura Masa’s self-titled debut. The ambition shown on his self-titled debut comes across here as solidify The fact that his solo tracks never seem to solidify is not exactly the step-up we needed from that official first release of Alex Crossan back in 2017.
Meghan Trainor – Treat Myself
Three songs into Treat Myself, Meghan Trainor proves her finalized evolution with “Funk,” which is hard not to hear as a Bruno Mars reference. Trainor has officially lost the vibe of Title, blending in perfectly with the hip-hop saturated pop of the late 2010s. “Nice to Meet Ya,” featuring Nicki Minaj, shows that the “new” Meghan Trainor is out with the old, and out with what made “All About That Bass” a national sensation as well.
Eminem – Music to be Murdered By
Yikes, the production on Music to be Murdered By may be better, but Eminem lyrical prowess is far behind him, drawing from a dated Alfred Hitchcock reference that in 2020 seems hopelessly irrelevant. The first half is actually not terrible… until you realize there are ten tracks left. Eminem’s metric of “better than Kamikaze” still leaves so, so much to be desired.
😬 Definitely Bad / Not for Anyone
Louis Tomlinson – Walls
The last of One Direction to release a solo album after the group’s breakup, Louis Tomlinson expectedly shows the least promise of the five boy-band mates. With the majority of tracks sounding like Oasis ripoffs, his songwriting attempts to stand out from his former bandmates come across as banal and complacent. Even the standout songs from the first half go in one ear and out the other.
Beach Slang – The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City
Totally derivative of much better bands. The Deadbeat Bang of Heartbreak City lacks almost all the care and thought that went into his predecessors’ music. The more you listen, the more you want to shut it off and listen to the great bands that James Alex desperately copies.
Theory of a Deadman – Say Nothing
In 2017, this Nickelback-clone post-grunge band moved towards a modern pop/rock sound to become an Imagine Dragons clone with Wake Up Call). That album, spawning their biggest hit, was hilariously enough their best album (they really were that bad before). Now, they unsurprisingly follow that direction with similarly low-quality results; since there is no effort here to actively seek out bad music, I can safely say this was the worst album I heard this month.
Look out for more lists every month! Hear our thoughts on the new Green Day, Tame Impala, Grimes, Soccer Mommy, and much more… coming soon! For the recommended January releases, check out this link <-- see you next month :)