Luke Nuttall (Editor / Writer)
5. Killswitch Engage – Atonement
It’s always a shame to put a band like Killswitch Engage on a list of disappointments, given their illustrious back catalogue that really does speak for itself. But the fact that Atonement has basically faded after just a few months shows how little of an entity this one really is, falling into the basic mould of a Killswitch Engage album, but feeling arguably more pedestrian and burned-out than ever before. There are certainly worse metalcore albums out there, and the fact that moments of technical quality are present is something of a saving grace, but Atonement is nothing close to a band at their full potential, and when that band is capable of classic-level material, that stings all the sharper.
4. ROAM – Smile Wide
Just when ROAM looked as though they were about to get their act together, along comes Smile Wide to scupper any of those notions. Great Heights & Nosedives was definitely a good pop-punk album, and while looking to reinvent themselves with shades of emo and alt-rock straight after might be admirable, the results don’t really pan out. There’s a workable seed in Smile Wide, but a clumsy presentation of tones that are way too unsubtle and lumbering only highlights the limitations of this band rather than their strengths, coupled with lyrics that display just as little in the way of tact or, really, as much imagination or intelligence as they think they have. Above all, it’s a missed opportunity, as ROAM abandon something that was once working for them to rest directly in an unimpressive middle of the road.
3. Papa Roach – Who Do You Trust?
In a scene that fields as much derision as US radio-rock, Papa Roach have always stood above the chaff in terms of real anthemic songwriting of a much higher quality. Thus, the levels of disappointment that Who Do You Trust? falls under are twofold, not only falling victim to the over-sanitisation and pop overcompensating that’s become pretty much a staple of this sound, but dropping a really ugly piece of work in the process. This clunky mess of an album has pretty much come and gone in most circles, but the shockwaves caused by such a steep fall from grace haven’t faded yet, as fashioned-together sounds and uninspired lyrics come in lieu of a usually solid hard rock core that’s nothing new, but it’s something that Papa Roach can at least pull off. This is just a dud in every sense, and forgetting it ever happened is perhaps the kindest thing that can be done for it.
Had it not have been for End Of The Game which only continues to grow with every listen, Weezer would’ve been all but guaranteed to top this list this year. 2019 felt like a year in which Weezer’s primary aim was to burn all bridges they’d previously constructed with their fanbase, and follow it up by scorching the land in a ten-mile radius for good measure to ensure any smidge of remaining fertility is basically nonexistent. At least The Teal Album’s greatest sin was being unnecessary and throwaway, but The Black Album’s messy, mean-spirited and unashamedly stupid pivot to alt-pop was indicative of a band with no clue of what they were doing, seemingly unaware that this exact direction has given them their most maligned efforts to date. Again, End Of The Game is at least a glimmer of hope that Weezer haven’t forgotten there’s a good band within them, and while it alone isn’t a complete source of hope for Van Weezer – it’s called Van Weezer, for starters – it’d be hard to be worse than what 2019 brought from them.
1. The successes of Yungblud and Lewis Capaldi
When it comes to the absolute biggest disappointment of the year, it wouldn’t seem right to leave either of these artists out of the conversation, given that they’ve probably swindled the music-listening public in equally disgusting magnitudes to build totally undeserved careers for themselves. Of the two, Yungblud probably ekes out a spot as the worst as a wannabe emo hack whose success has been defined by spouting the most dumbed-down approximation of whatever the idiots who’ve bought into his ‘personality’ want to hear, but Lewis Capaldi remains a close second, only a half-step behind Tom Walker in the stakes of sodden, embarrassingly maudlin and irredeemably basic singer-songwriter fare. And honestly, if these two were just any run-of-the-mill artists, it wouldn’t be worth getting as annoyed, but the fact that both have spent the last twelve months playing a global audience like saps and making out that their derivative, pandering schlock is actually something meaningful really does call into question if the general public actually know what they’re doing. When surface-level marketing and the most naked carrot-and-stick ploys possible actually work, it’s hard not to be disappointed when so many have enabled these two to make genuine, fruitful careers out of having nothing of substance to offer. So rather than an outright condemnation of music-buying habits, consider this as something of a PSA going into the new year – you don’t have to like everything the music industry shoves down your throat, and the fact that it’s gone by unencumbered for so long is the only reason that these two are anywhere near as big as they are. Critical thinking is a good thing, and the sooner that gets drilled in, the fewer Yungbluds and Lewis Capaldis there’ll be in the world.
Georgia Jackson (Deputy Editor / Writer)
5. Cigarettes After Sex – Cry
In theory, Cigarettes After Sex sticking to what they always do should have worked wonders, especially when they have a cult following that fall over themselves to sing the praises of the band’s romantic dreampop. But Cry often doesn’t do much to establish itself as more than a copycat album, plodding along at its worst moments and giving cringeworthy lyrics (that were much harder to notice the first time around) a front and centre spot that’s more off-putting than anything else. Some moments here are on-brand gorgeous which should be enough for Cigarettes After Sex to retain some kind of momentum, but craftsmanship has definitely gone down on Cry, and if their next record carries on like this, listeners will definitely lose patience.
4. PVRIS – Hallucinations
2019 saw the least fanfare to date around a PVRIS release, and for good reason. Their Hallucinations EP contained some of their most forgettable material to date – the lowkey danceability of title track makes it far and away the most best thing here, just okay single Death Of Me and slow-burning grower Old Wounds next in line, but by quite a long distance. Apart from more on the nose lyrics (talking about California would be unheard of on previous albums), PVRIS don’t seem to be doing anything particularly different to the formula that has scored them winners of albums twice now, so what’s caused the problem here? Perhaps the high expectations many have of their releases are beginning to genuinely mar enjoyment, but then again something here does feel lacklustre almost across the board. Granted, this is just an EP – who knows what could be coming next? We just hope PVRIS haven’t lost their spark for this next record.
3. Turnover – Altogether
It feels almost unfair to call Altogether a disappointment considering how obvious Turnover’s imminent departure from more emo territory was on 2017’s Good Nature. But that said, their melding of funk, pop and jazz to their own brand of rock made for their most faceless release to date. There are interesting moves made on Parties and Still In Motion, but there’s little there to really grip onto. Appreciating quirky guitar licks doesn’t let you sink into a song the same way a catchy melody does, something the trio have shown they’re more than adept at crafting on albums prior but don’t quite do on Altogether. Such a move probably wouldn’t have gotten so much attention for any other band, particularly not one whose discography isn’t as lauded by their fans as Turnover’s is, and it’s not that Altogether is a bad album. There just isn’t as much substance here, and it’s sadly going to be a record that’s forgotten by many before 2020 starts.
2. Camila Cabello – Romance
There’s no real reason why Romance should be a letdown. All the factors that made Camila Cabello’s first album work are present and correct, plus the masses seemed to be on board by making Señorita featuring Shawn Mendes essentially the song of the summer. But the string of singles that mostly didn’t quite land was indeed indicative of the rest of the record. Ballads come off as cheesy, sass often feels forced and the higher end of her vocals is sometimes difficult to listen to. The melodrama of songs like Shameless and Bad Kind Of Butterflies fare best here, but they’re in no way a universal vibe. Sure, some of these have been extremely successful numbers-wise, but as an authentic and interesting artist, Cabello just doesn’t have much to stand on with Romance.
1. Frank Turner – No Man’s Land
Complicated politics about whether or not Frank Turner was the right person to make it aside, No Man’s Land was an extremely appealing prospect on paper. An album in which every track tells the tale of an unsung woman in history, told by one of the most consistent storytellers in alternative music? Sounds like perfection. But a return to folkier roots for Turner resulted in No Man’s Land being a bit of a washout – sure, the less complicated style that allows for rambling is probably the best choice to allow details of these stories to come through, but there are reasons why Sister Rosetta’s radio friendliness, Nica’s jazz influences and Huda Sha’arawi-focused rock effort The Lioness stick out over the other acoustic guitar led tracks that just fade into the background with nothing to grip onto musically. The stories are the central focus with No Man’s Land, but the best way to really get into the history behind them is with Turner’s accompanying podcast series to the album, not the mostly lifeless songs sold as the main event. Such an ambitious and pored-over project should have have been much more memorable than this.
Words by Luke Nuttall and Georgia Jackson