It’s getting toward the middle of the year, which means it’s the time when music bloggers start looking back at the year so far. It’s been an excellent year for music thus far, and we’ll be getting to the best of 2013 in due course, but given that the last week has been given over to a mystifying wave of hype over hitherto largely unheralded UK siblings Disclosure, it seems a good time to survey the fact that 2013 has also been a year in which people have gotten very, very excited over certain albums, so much so that I suspect we may find ourselves looking back in due course and asking ourselves quite what we were thinking. With this in mind, here are the most overhyped albums of the year to date. To clarify: these albums aren’t necessarily bad, although some definitely are. They’re just a study in the way that Internet hype can snowball.
Autre Ne Veut — Anxiety
If you ever enjoyed Arthur Ashin’s hyper-emotional and pleasantly deranged live shows, you were probably anticipating this album as much as everyone else — which only made it more disappointing that on record, his edge was dulled to the point that this sounded more like a slick R&B album than anything else. As many, many artists have discovered in the past, it’s hard translating live energy to record, but it was a shame that this did so little to capture what we liked about Autre Ne Veut in the first place.
The Knife — Shaking the Habitual
Obviously, I’m aware that Flavorwire wasn’t exactly immune to the hype here — we published a Knife reading list, for Chrissakes. And I still think this is one of the most fascinating releases of the year. But in retrospect, there’s no way that Shaking the Habitual could ever live up to the sky-high expectations that preceded its release — and ultimately, it hasn’t, largely because as ever with The Knife, the songs just aren’t quite there. The concepts, the imagery, the remarkably forward-thinking production, the unconstrained ambition… They’re all there, but the simple fact is that the songs on this record don’t quite measure up to the rest of the concept. It’s notable that even after the release of Shaking the Habitual, the relatively sparse Fever Ray is still the best Dreijer-related record to be had, for the simple reason that it’s the best collection of songs for which either sibling has been responsible. Sometimes, less is more.
Boards of Canada — Tomorrow’s Harvest
Similarly, this record is perfectly OK — in fact, it’s pretty great. But it also saw the entire Internet go batshit over, let’s not forget, a Boards of Canada record. If you’d told anyone at the start of the year that the hype over this album would be so great that the start of a pre-release live stream would be enough to crash Twitter, they’d probably have looked at you like you were crazy. Kudos to whoever designed the publicity campaign, even if the hype did get kinda irritating after a while.
Iceage — You’re Nothing
And now onto the “overhyped and not so good” section of our programming. Quite why everyone got so excited about a pretty bog-standard hardcore-by-numbers band from Copenhagen will remain one of the great mysteries of 2013, even setting aside their apparent fondness for fascist iconography. Yay. Fun guys.
Azealia Banks — Broke With Expensive Taste
If only because the damn thing appears to be vaporware at this point.
Justin Timberlake — The 20/20 Experience
The record that JT allegedly didn’t want to make, a fact for which he apparently compensated by making every track several eons too long. Listening to the whole thing is something of an endurance test, a fact that your correspondent discovered to his detriment.
Jai Paul — leaked demos
In which the entire Internet flips out over an album that turns out not to be an album. Good job, everyone.
Vampire Weekend — Modern Vampires of the City
Here’s the thing with Vampire Weekend: everyone criticizes them for the wrong reasons. Pretty much every negative thing that’s ever been said about them focuses on their “whiteness,” or their privileged upbringing, or the allegedly problematic implications of their fondness for African music and how this fondness manifests in their own songs. Such arguments are both fundamentally wrongheaded and also miss the larger point — their Weezer-goes-to-Soweto songs are just as mannered and awful as ever, a fact that people seem to overlook again and again. Make it stop. Please.
Disclosure — Settle
This year seems to the year of the fundamentally-mediocre-but-mystifyingly-overhyped electronic album. There are a bazillion fantastic electronic artists working in relative obscurity out there, making music that’s strange and wonderful and challenging and fascinating. This airbrushed curiosity is none of those things — it’s slick, sure, and beautifully produced, but the production is like a gleaming shiny wrapper around a whole lot of nothing.
Daft Punk — Random Access Memories
And, yes, there was only gonna be one answer to this. One day, we will look back on the fact that in 2013, the entire world went crazy about two dudes in helmets making something that sounded like ELO. For now, however, it doesn’t seem even remotely amusing.