Let me start out by saying that I don't believe music criticism should ever be malicious or cruel, but there certainly is an inevitability where expectations overpower the actual material, and this is one of the toughest aspects of music: living up to the hype. None of these albums are bad, by any stretch of judgement, they just didn't meet their heightened expectations, and all the large scale blogs were the ones setting them. These are some albums that fell short of affirming early expectations.
Big Boi - Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
I still believe Sir Lucious Left Foot the Song of Chico Dusty was the best album of 2010, a year that saw Cosmogramma, The Monitor, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, This Is Happening, etc. That album is a masterpiece of songs. Big Boi is known for his vast taste in music - his favorite artists are Bob Marley and Kate Bush - and this release is a testament to that. VLDR definitely has a wide pallet of songs, but nothing seems to stick with the listener. "Shoes for Running" features Wavves and Big Boi spitting machine gun flow, though it never displays a wow moment. It's obvious to say I had extremely high expectations for this album, which seems unfair considering how long Big Boi's first solo album took to come out - not counting Speakerboxxx as a solo effort, despite being mostly a Big Boi album. This is a good album, better than a lot of rap albums this year; it's just not as good as it could be.
To say Coexist is minimal would be severely understating how stripped back the arrangements are on the trio's follow up to 2009's excellent debut, xx. Early singles "Angels" and "Chained" showed promise, but it was the album's lackluster second act that bored me to frustrated tears. Jamie XX had the blogosphere thinking Coexist would have a much more salient club music presence, though what the effort came to be was spacey, languid, and meandering - none of those comments a compliment. This is isn't so much a sophomore a slump as it feels, well, kind of lazy. I loved the balance on xx, the silence was an instrument in itself, but there doesn't seem to be much music here, besides Oliver Sim and Romy Croft's angelic voices. The xx evolved into a hype band following the band's first record, which set them up for an even higher fall, although I hope this won't be the last we see of the London trio.
Don't even get me started on how disappointing this record is -- well, I guess I have to go into why, as that is the subject matter of this post. I, like everybody else on the Internet, got an early listen through a "radio" service the band set up on a website. "Today's Supernatural" is still an excellent song - the obvious choice for the first single - except it doesn't do a great job of foretelling what Centipede Hz actually sounds like, which is sort of like playing all of Animal Collective's other songs all at once, and then having Deakin show up and add some digital interference. There are only a few songs that can be taken away from this muddled mess - the aformentioned single, "Applesauce", "New Town Burnout", and "Monkey Riches" - and added to an otherwise stellar discography, although "New Town Burnout" just sounds like something that could have come off of Tomboy, BUT WITH DEAKIN NOISES! Is this a flop from a band riding high from a commercial sense, one that was super freaking weird and coherent at the same time, Merriweather Post Pavilion? I doubt it, although I'm still kind of pissed off, months later.
Passion Pit - Gossamer
I don't know if I expected this to be a great album or I was just curious, after Michael Angelakos made dubiously suicidal comments, but I was certainly interested as to what Gossamer would sound like. A depressed Passion Pit album? A song on a Taco Bell commercial? The hype certainly captured my attention. First single "I'll Be Alright" is romping and bouncy, certainly a highpoint, but the rest of the album is so "meh" that I forgot about it, until I had to start making year end lists. This might be the whitest album of the year - honkeys and their keyboards. I've always been sort of a cursory Passion Pit fan, though Gossamer seems like it'll be my last effort to like the Cambridge band, and, assuming Angelakos wasn't just trying to arouse more hype around the sophomore release, it might be his last too.
I guess high hopes should never preface an album, but it's nearly impossible to protect yourself from any sort of media coverage nowadays. These albums might end up being some favorites of mine, save for Centipede Hz, despite the fact that, right now, I consider them disappointments. I have already started listening to some of next year's albums, and with those come another set of expectations, so as much as I hate to have a piece of art overshadowed by press, it will continue to be an indelible facet of music criticism.