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Ten Turkeys of 2006

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Sad but true: along with the favorite CDs of 2006 there were also the disappointing, the uninspired, and the flat out bad ones…

[10] AFX: Chosen Lords
The enigmatic electronica/IDM genius Richard D. James is merely spinning his wheels here, churning out nondescript, monotonous "limited edition" singles with little of the manic glee or introspective moodiness heard in Aphex Twin's best work, such as Come To Daddy and drukqs.

[9] Diana Krall: From This Moment On
What should have been a no-brainer return to form after her tepid foray into singer/songwriter territory on The Girl In The Other Room, Diana Krall's new album of tried-and-true jazz standards backed by a big band never really gets off the ground. While her previous collaboration with the Clayton/Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Christmas Songs, was a charmer, From This Moment On has too much polish and not enough sparkle and swing, and the tunes just kind of sit there. If you try to please everyone…

[8] Louis Andriessen: Writing To Vermeer
I can't imagine why Mr. Andriessen's new opera Writing to Vermeer is garnering so much praise — maybe "you had to be there." On CD, however, it's a grating, annoying, and self-consciously postmodern trial to endure… in fact, I finally had to just give up about halfway through the second disc. Life is too short, after all.

[7] Four Tet: Everything Ecstatic [Films & Part 2]
If you start releasing everything you've ever recorded, you'll eventually end up with a few shitty albums. That's what happened to Kieran Hebden with Everything Ecstatic Part 2, a pointless and unnecessary collection of throwaways and outtakes that will be listened to once by die-hard Four Tet fans and then never played again. And as for the mostly amateurish, grotesque, silly, and/or irritating "films" on the DVD, the less said the better…

[6] Amorphous Androgynous: Alice In Ultraland
Whatever they're calling themselves these days, Future Sound of London, a.k.a. Amorphous Androgynous, continue their regrettable and mind-boggling descent into laughable neo-psychedelia. Their previous misadventures into this territory, The Isness and The Otherness (get it?), at least benefited from Max Richter's luxurious production, but Alice In Ultraland expands upon the worst elements of those albums — jangling guitars, noisy sound effects, awful vocals — to create a really bad trip. I don't know what FSOL is smoking, but I sure hope they stop soon…

[5] Stephin Merritt: Showtunes
Stephin Merritt, one of the most talented songwriters alive, tries his hand at musical theater, resulting in a Magnetic Fields meets The Mikado hybrid that unfortunately won't appeal to fans of either. While the songs themselves (none of which are sung by Merritt himself, unfortunately) have plenty of trademark wit, style, and intelligence, the affected theatricality of these performances makes Showtunes almost unbearable to listen to and impossible to enjoy.

[4] Philip Glass: The Concerto Project, Vol. 2
The outer movements of Glass's "Lewis and Clark" Piano Concerto are merely bland and barely distinguishable from those of his "Tirol" Concerto, but it's the central "Sacagawea" movement that would almost be hilarious if it weren't meant to be taken seriously. R. Carlos Nakai has the unenviable job of noodling around on a Native American flute made to sound like an out-of-tune recorder playing Glass's unidiomatic and inane little ditties in a shameless attempt at P.C. multiculturalism that falls flat on its face. The descent into self-parody is complete with the Harpsichord Concerto, a ridiculous trifle of a piece possibly indicating that Philip Glass will crank out a concerto for anyone willing to pay for one. Coming soon: the Bongo Concerto?

And last, and unfortunately least… [drumroll…] the Turkey of the Year Award for 2006 goes to

Brad Mehldau!

[3] Brad Mehldau / Pat Metheny: Metheny/Mehldau
[2] Brad Mehldau Trio: House On Hill
[1] Brad Mehldau / Renee Fleming: Love Sublime

The once promising and inventive jazz pianist who amazed us all with his Art of the Trio series, cool versions of Radiohead and Nick Drake tunes, and the stunning solo effort Elegiac Cycle, was responsible for not one… not two… but THREE bland, ponderous, and entirely forgettable albums released on the Nonesuch label in 2006.

House On Hill has his stellar original trio coasting along aimlessly through Mehldau originals that all sound the same, Metheny/Mehldau pairs the pianist with the jazz guitar legend for a yawn-fest of uninspired noodling, and the ambitious Love Sublime, a collaboration with opera superstar Renee Fleming, is a dreary, pretentious, and unlistenable mess.

Here's to hoping Brad Mehldau gets his mojo back in 2007…

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  • Mark Saleski

    dang, i think that intimate interplay in the Metheny/Mehldau recording is fantastic. it reminds me of those Jim Hall/Bill Evans albums.

    ah well, i won’t hold it against ya.

  • I knew these records weren’t going to be good so I didn’t bother listening to them in the first place ;&)

    …except for Mehldau/Metheny, but I addressed that elsewhere.


  • Ron Mercer

    You’re total ignorance regarding Glass’s music is astonishing. Stick with you Diana Krall.

  • I’ll agree with you on House on Hill (and I’ve seen little disagreement that it’s less than stellar,) but you’ve got to be shitting me with Metheny Mehldau. You’ve actually listened to this, right? Absolutely one of the year’s best albums. You are among very few to say otherwise. I’m guessing maybe this one is slipping right past you – it’s a very quiet affair, so give it some time. One of these days, you’ll be surprised when you realize how wrong you were about this one.

    Don’t worry about Brad – House on Hill was recorded before Day is Done and sounds pretty indicative of a band that needed a change. It may be written up that Jorge Rossy left to pursue academic and family interests, but I’m guessing that there’s more to it than that. The band just sounds uninspired and when a band sounds uninspired and struggling like they do here, it’s a safe bet there may be some interpersonal issues going on. Listen to how vital the new trio sounds on Day is Done. He’s going to do just fine with Jeff Ballard keeping time behind him.

  • I had visions of Saleski splitting his wig when I edited this piece. I know he liked the Metheny/Mehldau record. I might have to listen to it so I can cast the deciding vote. =)

  • Mark Saleski

    it takes a lot more than that to get my wig to split.