Top 10 of 2012: Lies Music Critics Told You
Who's saying what
As TheVine hurtles towards 2013 and the holiday season, we've asked our critics to give us their Top 10 best music "things" from over the past year -- whatever the hell they may be and in whatever haphazard fashion they so declare.
Have you ever listened to a record after a reading a review and discovered it just wasn't right?
Sometimes they (we?) get it so wrong it’s like the reviewer walked into your home and told you straight up that your mother is dead. But she isn’t dead. She’s sitting right next to you. Screaming furiously at the stupid reviewer for imputing she’s actually dead. How dare the reviewer. How dare they indeed. (Get out of my house already, you good for nothing reviewer!)
10. Sputnik Music: “Deftones play Deftones in a shockingly pale manner most unlike them.”
Some reviews inspire the standard knee-jerk rejoinder ‘Did you even listen to the fucking thing?’ Eli Kleman’s insistence that a well done steak still leaks juice on the plate betrays a slight nuttiness that’s usually welcome in music criticism but in this instance smacks of insanity. Deftones’ wounded and darkly visceral opus Koi No Yokan offers figurative brutality in opposition their usual unbottling of misdirected angst and young adult bravado. Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that they have eschewed much of their screeching riffs and emptied their pummelling fists full of metal but it doesn’t dilute them outright. But hell, at least he didn’t compare them to the fucking Cure like (almost) everyone else.
9. NME: “[W]hat Muse have done is re-establish themselves as a respected British institution.”
Muse singer/guitarist Matt Bellamy tweeted quizzically prior to the recording of the preening The 2nd Law, as recorded via Spin.com: "About to start some recording tomorrow. What musical direction shall we go in?" following it up by “OK, will start on christian gangsta rap jazz odyssey, some ambient rebellious dubstep and face melting metal flamenco cowboy psychedelia." And guess what: we got dubstep. Adding dubstep to things, as I’ve argued previously, is like the well-intentioned tattoo at 3am, waxing exponentially more embarrassing as time chimes on – be it milliseconds or years. Mr. Dan Martin beams “If anything, [the track ‘Survival’] serves as a reminder about how 2012 got us all a bit overexcited; Chris Martin from Coldplay sure did when he described the follow-up, ‘Madness’, as the best song Muse have ever done.” I guess if it bears the Coldplay tick of approval, it must be awesome. The 2nd Law refers to the three laws of thermodynamics. In actuality, if you have enough albums under your snake-skin belt with the cash to match, the 1st law of rock music states thus: your producers and A&R execs won’t have the ticker to say your musical cocktail is nine parts ego, one part genre hopping and mostly garnished with pretentious shite.
8. The Independent: “[Lana Del Rey, ‘Born To Die’] *****”
This pull quote slapped on the front of the kitsch queen of the universe’s debut will simply be these five stars followed by an exclamation mark, wrapped in quotations. This will be its urgent case for you, the consumer to purchase it over albums which do not have five stars. It stares at you, signifying unsurpassable musical quality. Yet it taunts you. What sound does one star make, let alone five? When one star speaks, does it literally sound like Limp Bizkit mashed up with Justin Bieber played over a telephone? When four more stars gather together, do the blissful strains of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds ring out? Even though none of us can truly define it, we can reasonably assume five stars does not sound like Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die. It doesn’t. It can’t. This neatly assembled quintet of stars stare at each other nervously at the corners of their two-dimensional eyes. “Come on, at least three of you aren’t supposed to be here,” they think in unison. Del Rey’s listless eyes and Priscilla Presley knock-off beehive underscore a blithely counterfeit nostalgi-pop posturing. Even she knows deep down, buried beneath her guardedly cultivated Instagram-vintage that these five stars are a bold indictment on the entire concept of star-based reviewing.
7. Sputnik Music: “[Destruction's Spiritual Genocide] really is amazing in terms of actual content.”
Destruction, along with Kreator and Sodom, form the vanguard of German thrash metal. They basically invented it in the mid-80s. Kreator’s ultra-riot inciting Phantom Antichrist marshalled near unanimous neck-snaps of approval this year. What of Teutonic brothers Destruction? Exhorder of Sputnik Music contends: “Spiritual Genocide marks thirty years of thrash brilliance and embodies everything good about the band, from their killer soloing ability to the absolute (sic) skin-ripping vocals from Marcel [Schmier] Schirmer.” He and hordes of others basically reward Destruction with an A for turning in an essay which only just addresses the assessment criteria. Schmier ropes in guest vocalists from Sodom and Tankard to growl over clod-footed thrash tracks suited for a climate ravaged by hairspray tin CFCs and Romulan High Command standard issue shoulder pads. It would seem Mr. (or Ms.) Exhorder deliberately refused to listen to any other metal band this year lest any other band ever cast a pall over his beaming appraisal of something far less deserving.
6. AbsolutePunk.net: “[Anberlin’s] greatness is palpable.”
The Rasputin-like figure of Superhans in the devilishly funny Peep Show sternly tells us you simply can’t trust people. “They voted for the Nazis and listen to Coldplay,” he grimly declares in one episode. Since the music industry is a subset of people-in-general, Superhans similarly cautions us against industry types, who “wear their ties done up to eleven, clicking their fingers to the fucking Lighthouse Family while getting their dicks sucked by a big Alsatian dog.” Hmm, well, perhaps not. But the teenage fervour for Anberlin proves teen spirit isn’t forcibly wrung from kids, bottled and resold at outrageous mark-ups any longer. Quite heinously, it’s been bred out of teenagers altogether. Onward they trudge, subjects of a dismal accelerated evolution perpetrated under the aegis of a grey corporate dystopia. Strumming out maudlin hosannas sort-of-almost-not-quite baptised in a river of MySpaced pop-punk doesn’t paper over their bleeding hearts lusting for Christian rock dollars. They’re literally grooming these anodyne adolescents for a blinkered life of Coldplay and Michael Buble. Are you happy now, Anberlin?
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5. The Prophet Blog: “In reality, ‘Somethin ‘Bout Kreay’ is one of the funniest and best produced major label pop albums of the year.”
If you listen to Kreayshawn speak, it’s as if every unctuous, bratty Valley Girl syllable she utters has been parsed through a confused language centre hotwired to “street.” Just imagine the Honourable Member for Wentworth approaching the benches to declare “Damn J-Gizzizzle, dat NBN be wack, dawg! How you ‘spose ta bake bread if you ain’t got no cookin’ skills?” It hangs by a gossamer filament of credibility, just like his commitment to classical liberalism. It almost literally takes a brain and a half worth of cognitive dissonance to think his leather jacket wearing dissolves his iron-bound ties to the deeply conservative party he represents. Likewise, it requires similar mental gymnastics to truly, truly believe Kreayshawn is a credible musician, not merely a cobbled together narrative in a bizarre down-market cross-media reality show. Her handlers dropped ‘Gucci Gucci’ into the cynical pop music maelstrom promptly sending hype machines into overload. Yet in longform, her album serves only to impress trolls and trolls alone – purely because they’re spirits in kind.
4. Amazon.com – “It’s time to open your eyes and see the talent that is Nicki Minaj.”
If I opened them any wider the vitreous fluid encasing my retinas would probably pool in the back of my head and cause irreparable brain damage. Our silicone-encased rapper/wannabe anime character, we’re reliably informed released Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded because “she’s doing this for the fans – how can you hate that?” Following that sterling premise to its conclusion, you’d think that Uncle Joe Stalin built the gulags for the über-fans of Bolshevism and anyone who didn’t submit to his iron will were just plain old stick in the muds. Probing further, our reviewer believes “She’s truly a talented artist, she does it all!” Indeed, from cleaning your windows, routine disk defragmentation to Hubble telescope realignment using lasers triangulated within her freakishly oversized eyeballs, Nicki Minaj’ versatility proves that her “music” isn’t simply the result of a communications malfunction on the worst kind of robot.
3. HipHopdx.com – “’[Chris Brown's] Fortune’ further indicates a changing of the guard in urban music.”
Yeah, if you’re willing to call Neanderthal bouncers “guards” and sleazy dive bars “castles.” Mr. Jesse Fairfax lauds Chris Brown’s near-universally panned exegesis dedicated to himself. Fairfax’ lauds Brown’s indefensible contempt for common decency, painting “the uptempo "Strip" celebrates the patronage of exotic dancers” while his "Party Hard" salutes a woman caught up in the fast life, moments giving speculation as to whether Chris' hedonistic debauchery on record is rooted in fact or creativity.” I’m fairly certain you needn’t possess a Shakespearean intellect to go apeshit like a complete arsehole, only to earn further notoriety for being unrepentantly and unapologetically so. I mean, Nikki Sixx never gained his Masters in Anthropology and he does just fine.
2. AllMusic.com – “’Illud Divinum Insanus’ isn't a stumble for Morbid Angel."
I agree, Mr. Freeman. The putrid shitpile that is Illud Divinum Insanus isn’t a stumble for the stalwart death metal troupe. The same band whose masterful hands moulded the genre and set almost unimpeachable benchmarks over its three decade existence. No. It’s like they took a kilometre long run up to plunge headfirst into the Grand Canyon like Scrooge McDuck does into his money pit, flipping the bird to all their fans on the way down. As they soar downward, you begin to genuinely believe their middle finger is thrust squarely at you. “Those who love the band's earliest records - Altars of Madness, Blessed Are the Sick, and Covenant -- are bound to see Illud Divinum Insanus' experiments with industrial as betrayals of everything the group once stood for,” he wrote unreservedly. That’s all he needed write. Yet he pressed on unencumbered, bestowing four stars on it. You do realise that 80% means an A-grade? “About three-fifths of this album [should’ve been] relegated to the cutting room floor and burned beyond recognition” was Jim Brandon of MetalReview.com’s advice. Sound advice indeed. Here’s a special exclusive clip to demonstrate our point:
1. Paste Magazine – “There is no denying [Mumford & Sons’] music is solid despite its familiarity.”
Yes there is, Wyndham Wyeth. Furious denials. Damning releases will be sent to the press. Nervous media conferences will be held. Arse-reaming royal commissions shall run thick with denials and “I can’t recalls.” News cycles turning over hour by hour beam hours’ worth of prime-time blame-shifting into your home and/or mobile device. All of it is topped off with pleading insistence that “mistakes were made” which crescendos in a ritual lupine evisceration of a middle-management lackey by the public’s righteous ire. Mumford & Sons’ tepid, cloying folk-rock is probably the reason why no one took the Occupy movement seriously and why people think wearing flamingo print shirts paired with a Hitler Jugend standard haircut is somehow a good idea. If Tumblr and its user base of whimsical, perpetually offended shut-ins got to choose the music we all heard, forever, this is what it would sound like.
Do you want the truth? Mr. Agreeable of the Quietus doesn’t believe you can handle it, and neither can the people who thought Babel was a decent record. “Right now […] conditions have deteriorated to the f***ing point where f***ing Mumford And Sons can get to reach Number f***ing one on both sides of the f***ing Atlantic, with their faux, 'Golly, wouldn't it be jolly to be poor, capering around the junkyard wearing neckerchiefs and being authentic' chic. Who buys this septic f***ing horseshit?” he ever so politely inquires. Researchers could probably figure it out, but they’re all tied up with finally cracking that ghastly cancer nut. Thanks for nothing, music criticism in general.