It’s end-of-year list-making time, and right on cue, the first bunch of Best-of-2013 lists are starting to appear on various blogs and in magazines. And, as ever, there’s a certain orthodoxy about them, a pattern whereby you see the same record appear on list after list, and find yourself scratching your head and saying, “But, wait, that album sucked!” Well, if it’s any consolation, it’s not just you. Here are ten records to which your correspondent has had the same reaction — albums that seem to have gotten universal love despite being at best flawed and at worst awful.
Daft Punk — Random Access Memories
The critics said: “For RAM, Daft Punk recorded in the best studios, they used the best musicians, they added choirs and orchestras when they felt like it, and they almost completely avoided samples, which had been central to most of their biggest songs. Most of all, they wanted to create an album-album, a series of songs that could take the listener on a trip, the way LPs were supposedly experienced in another time.” (Pitchfork)
All this is true. It’s also exactly the problem: all the big-budget self-indulgence of Random Access Memories doesn’t change the fact that the songs are fundamentally dull. It’s also weirdly conservative, with its focus on “real” instrumentation and making a “real” album. The whole thing is a demonstration that sometimes less is more, and also serves as a fine example as to why navel-gazing electroprog went out of fashion in the first place: it has nothing to say. Nothing at all.