Musical Lowlights of 2018

I am an advocate of reviewing music with kindness, positivity and respect. Nothing upsets me more than people ripping through artists and songs just for the sake of it, or to further their own narrow vision of what is ‘good’ music. Still that doesn’t mean it’s possible to like all the music you hear and I think it’s important from a critical perspective to be honest about what you didn’t enjoy or what disappointed you. So, with a heavy heart, here are my musical lowlights of the year.

I originally made the decision to only review women on my blog as my general preference has always been ‘girls with guitars’ and I really wanted to advocate for better female representation in the music industry. Of course this choice now means I don’t have time to listen to a lot of music by men. Thankfully this year that meant I really didn’t miss much at all.

In my analysis of the end of year album lists I attempted to rectify my blind spots and ended up spending a lot of time just listening and laughing. For example the new Arctic Monkeys lounge album is one of the most inadvertently hilarious disasters I have ever heard in my life. Only a band who have moved to LA and taken a lot of drugs could think this was good music. And I tried to listen to The 1975 album without prejudice since I read so many nice reviews, even one which compared it to OK Computer (I mean, come on). TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME is catchy enough, like a passable Duran Duran bside, but that song title alone tells you everything that’s wrong with this over-hyped boy band.

The ‘Low’ album which has been so well received is just unlistenable to me but I know I’m never going to be the audience for experimental music like this. Similarly I have never liked classic rock like Led Zeppelin so I didn’t exactly enjoy listening to Greta Van Fleet. The idea that an album so derivative and retrograde as this has been Grammy nominated is pathetic considering women have been single-handedly saving this genre for years and no one gives a fuck. There was some good rock music out there this year and I really did want to like Idles because I respect their agenda but I think I’ve just reached my life limit on listening to shouty man music.

I was hoping to find a great pop record that I really loved, like Kesha’s Rainbow from last year, but overall I found little to engage me in that genre. I liked some Ariana Grande singles but I found her album as a whole just sounded like it was written by committee. Even lovely Thank U, Next was let down by a bewildering video where she appeared to enjoy dressing up as a Mean Girl and cheerleader without any trace of humour or irony.

Britain appeared to be intent on producing some of the worst pop music of the year with Little Mix deciding that singing in American accents over trap beats was a cool new direction to take. But that album was genius compared to the tragic Cheryl Cole comeback single, one of the most joyless and forgettable pop songs I’ve heard in a long time. And I beg of someone to please put Take That out of their misery once and for all.

In terms of rap I liked Cardi B’s menacing ‘Bodak Yellow’ from last year so I was disappointed to hear her album which sounded to me like a sell out on a massive scale – songs like I Like That were just pretty safe and bland all round. Of course you’d choose to listen to Cardi B for the rest of your life rather than endure any second of music Kanye West has released this year, especially the detestable I Love It, a song surely only enjoyed by immature teenage boys and forty year old men who have lost all touch with reality.

In terms of indie rock I found Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy pretty disappointing to be honest – the hooks failed to grab me and the lyrical content felt light (or maybe I’m just too damn old to care about bad boyfriends anymore). And I really wanted to like Christine and The Queens as she seems really cool but synth pop generally leaves me cold. Nice dancing, though.

As for country music maybe I’m just being contrary but I actually liked Meant To Be – it was a feel-good little summery pop song with a cute video. Genre purists are the absolute worst sometimes. For example I wasn’t sure about High Horse by Kacey Musgraves when I first heard it but the more these people (mainly men) moaned about it the more it grew in my estimation. Someone needs to explain to them that it is okay to have fun once in a while. After all there are some truly offensive songs out there like ‘Bitches’ and ‘Drunk Me’ by Mitchell Tenpenny, a singer proving how easy it is for men to make it in country music despite their obvious lack of integrity, morality or talent.

I sure there’s more awful music out there but thankfully I have managed to avoid hearing it. If you want to share your musical pain then have at it in the comments.

12 thoughts on “Musical Lowlights of 2018

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  1. Agree with most of this. The melodies and hooks on Soccer Mommy’s album actually worked for me, but yes, lyrically I guess it’s about what one would expect of a weed-smoking, astrology-believing American teenager. Similarly, I quite liked Snail Mail and also Courtney Barnett. I just think they’ve been hugely over-marked in some of the AOTY lists. It does seem at the moment that any female indie-kid can indolently pluck at an electric guitar whilst reading from their diary and certain quarters of the music media will go wild for it. Is this a much needed boost for women in indie or is it overrating average artists for the sake of trying to strike a balance?
    I sensed such pandering in some of the reviews of superorganism’s album. NPR in particular seemed intent on trying to convince us that this was a work of experimental, electro-pop genius. I thought it was an utter dog’s dinner of an album and evidence of everything that can go wrong when a diverse collective makes a record. It sounded like the product of a group of kids, most of them without much musical experience, arsing around in a studio, pushing buttons and twirling knobs and committing the resulting mish-mash to record. Based on interviews I’ve seen and read, that seems to pretty much be their MO. Lead singer Orono’s oh-so on-trend disaffected, disinterested, plaintiff vocals (it barely qualifies as singing) are particularly painful; I’m afraid it’s the unmistakable sound of bratty privilege. And the music itself – the sampling and beeps and noises and beats – have been done so much better by everyone from Beck to the Beastie Boys to the Avalanches and many more besides. Just because superorganism is a multi-cultural, multi-national collective living in a commune in Shoreditch doesn’t mean we have to like this album. Contrast this album with The Go! Team’s ‘semicircle’. Another diverse collective, but one with focus, purpose and a point to make, and quality tunes and samples to go with it. The only point we can take from superorganism’s album is that if you live in East London and own a laptop and synthesizer, you too can put out an album and someone somewhere will say it’s a masterpiece.
    In terms of mainstream pop, I find Jess Glynne, Paloma Faith and Anne-Marie almost indivisible. Are they the same person? Gender equality in music and throughout all facets of society is obviously the dominant zeitgeist, but I find their brand of “You go girl! Live your best life” shtick insulting and vapid. It reduces feminism to slogan-shouting infantilism. Such schlock seems to be the product of music execs as much as the artists, and serves to diminish the seriousness of the issues they claim to address.
    Agree 100% about The 1975 and Arctic Monkeys. Media darlings now though, they could release audio of them setting fire to puppies and certain publications would give it a five star review. And finally, I liked the Christine & the Queens album, but again I suspect over-marked and over-hyped because of who she is and what she represents.
    negativity over. I look forward to sharing some of my favourite albums of the year with you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t even mention Courtney Barnett as I can’t even listen to her music because her voice pains me so much 😂 One thing I did notice was that certain publications with a high percentage of male readers chose a particular type of woman in their AOTY lists – like Courtney Barnett, Christine and the Queens, The Breeders etc rather than the more feminine sounding albums like Kacey’s. I don’t know if I’m over thinking it but I definitely noticed a pattern.

      Didn’t listen to the superorganism one. NPR reviews are more like press releases. Jess Glyne is dull but she can sing at least. Paloma Faith reminds me of that overconfident untalented kid in your drama/music class that pushed themselves to the front despite being tone deaf and useless. Anne Marie is ok, good at what she does, not offensive to me. Seems to have more personality about her than dead behind the eyes Dua Lipa 😂

      Am working on my best of list – sharing soon! Looking forward to yours too x


  2. LOL. I listened to Courtney Barnett after you mentioned before that you are allergic to her voice. I don’t mind it as much as you obviously, but I think we’ve all got an artist like that – who we just can’t get along with no matter how hard we try.
    I listened to the Low album after Uncut awarded it AOTY. I’ve tried several times, but the furthest I’ve got through the album is track 4. I’ve got no problem with experimenting but does that make it AOTY? Even the accompanying article in Uncut didn’t make a convincing case. Do they genuinely believe it to be AOTY or do they believe it’s the type of album they should be giving it to.

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  3. I haven’t heard most of these, but I appreciate your style of presentation. Some other music “critics” seem to carry personal vendettas against artists that are beyond liking or disliking a particular song. As for “High Horse,” my favorite part of Kacey’s catalog is her steel- heavy country and western. I was listening to some of her Christmas album again yesterday, and really enjoy that sound. I don’t begrudge her making a disco song or a drug trip song or whatever other styles. I just connect more with the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I totally understand why some people don’t like High Horse, since I had my doubts too but just I hate the way people wrote about her as though she committed a crime by branching out of country music. Love the Christmas album! I haven’t quite got to the point where I can listen to Xmas music yet x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean about the “purists.” Every time they attack a song or artist I like, it pushes me towards everything they’re attacking. The reason we did Christmas stuff early is that we had a party with our Texas friends, before we leave town for the holidays, and I brought the music.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I live in Thornbury, an inner northern suburb of Melbourne (just up the road from (De)preston and smack bang in the middle of Courtney Barnett’s hood. Although she is pretty big in indie circles here (and now abroad) there are plenty who find her music a bit twee and irritating. I’m on that bus. I mean, she’s fine and all and refreshingly different, but, ho hum….you should check out her girlfriend though – Jen Cloher – she is fabulous, the real deal. Start with ‘Fear is like a forest’ and just keep on truckin’. Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

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