Interpol is getting worse
It might be time to turn off those bright lights. Both critic reviews and (for the most part) user grades have declined for each subsequent album released by indie rockers Interpol after their heralded 2002 debut. That trend makes their self-titled fourth album, released this week, their lowest-scoring album to date, with even worse reviews than their tepid major label debut Our Love To Admire. A return to indie label Matador didn't help Interpol return to the acclaim of their earlier work; just slightly over half of the 18 critics reviewing Interpol so far have given the album a positive review. It might be unfair to ask the band for another TOTBL, but even another Antics seems to be out of Interpol's reach these days. Or is it that critics are the ones being unfair, holding all subsequent albums against the impossibly high standard set by the debut? Some of our users seem to think so (the user score has been trending upward), and perhaps the new album will prove to be a grower; right now, however, many critics simply find a glaring lack of memorable tunes.
|2002||Turn On The Bright Lights||81||9.5|
|2007||Our Love To Admire||70||8.1|
FX is still special
The strong critical reception this week for the Ted Griffin- and Shawn Ryan-produced detective dramedy Terriers (which plays almost like an updated version of Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, without all the mumbling) continues an impressive run for the cable network FX. Over the past five years, only three of the network's new series have failed to earn positive reviews from critics; that's a success rate of 75%, with an average Metascore of 65. Is that good? By comparison, during the same five-year period, the average score for HBO's new series was 61, with 60% of new HBO shows receiving positive reviews from critics.
And the scores for FX's first-year programs (listed below) don't tell the complete story, as several of the network's shows seem to get better as they progress. (Though we don't have the data to back it, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a good example; that long-running program seems to win over even more fans each season, and it returns September 16 for its sixth season.) Take Sons of Anarchy, one of the lower-scoring "good" shows listed below. While its first season didn't blow anyone away, Anarchy's second season earned an impressive 86, while also showing up on numerous critic top ten lists for the year. This week saw the premiere of Season 3 of Sons of Anarchy, and critics were nearly as effusive, giving the show an 84. And the network will attempt to continue its winning streak early next year with the boxing drama Lights Out, which is already the recipient of positive buzz.
|2008||Sons of Anarchy||68||9.2|
Joaquin Phoenix might just be crazy enough to be interesting
In late 2008, Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line) "retired" from acting to pursue a new career as a hip-hop musician and beard aficionado; the year that followed was memorable mainly for a disastrous concert performance in Las Vegas and a bizarre appearance on David Letterman's show. Was it all an Andy Kaufman-esque put-on, or was Phoenix a legit self-indulgent weirdo? Though it doesn't answer that question definitively, the new documentary -- or "documentary" -- I'm Still Here 65 (directed by Phoenix's brother-in-law, Casey Affleck) thoroughly chronicles the actor's lost year, and many critics were impressed by the film, though the reviews run the gamut from glowing (Time Out New York's 100) to terrible (Chicago Tribune's 0). As of Thursday evening, over 70% of the reviews are positive.
Although they weren't entirely sure when they were watching Joaquin Phoenix, and when they were watching "Joaquin Phoenix" (likely, it was a bit of both), most critics admired not just the comedic aspects of Phoenix's odd behavior, but also the film's brutally honest portrayal of a celebrity's breakdown thanks to a potent combination of ego, drugs, and dementia. Or, at least, its facsimile of a brutally honest portrayal of such. The few reviewers who hated the film found the actor's behavior insufferable, and weren't captivated by yet another portrayal of a celebrity meltdown; in fact, they were so infuriated by the film that they couldn't care less whether or not Phoenix was faking.
Looking for a better documentary about "artists" where you cannot be fully sure about the veracity of what you are being shown? Try this year's Exit Through the Gift Shop 85.
Mercury Music Prize voters sometimes get it right
This week, the acclaimed debut album from the London-based band The xx was selected from a field of a dozen shortlisted nominees as the recipient of 2010's Mercury Prize. The award is given out annually to the best album from the U.K. or Ireland, as chosen by a group of journalists, musicians, and music executives. While the award is considered prestigious -- and can boost album sales for the winner (The xx's debut is already shooting up the UK charts this week) -- the nomination process can be controversial, with oddball selections popping up in the shortlists most years.
It would seem, however, that the panelists made the right choice this year. xx was one of the past year's highest-scoring albums on Metacritic, and appeared on many critics' year-end top ten lists. In fact, of the 12 shortlisted nominees, the album by The xx received the most favorable reviews from professional critics. The last time that the Mercury Prize went to the shortlisted nominee with the highest Metascore was 2005, and it has happened four times in the past decade, as you can see in the chart below, which indicates where the winning album's Metascore ranks among all nominated albums that year.
|Year||Winning Album / Artist||Metascore||Rank*|
|2010||xx by The xx||86||1|
|2009||Speech Therapy by Speech Debelle||77||3|
|High score among nominees that year: Primary Colours 82 by The Horrors|
|2008||The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow||82||4|
|High score among nominees that year: Untrue 90 by Burial|
|2007||Myths of the Near Future by Klaxons||71||6|
|High score among nominees that year: Favourite Worst Nightmare 82 by Arctic Monkeys|
|2006||Whatever People Say I Am, That's ... by Arctic Monkeys||82||2|
|High score among nominees that year: Cole's Corner 85 by Richard Hawley|
|2005||I Am a Bird Now by Antony and the Johnsons||88||t. 1 **|
|2004||Franz Ferdinand by Franz Ferdinand||87||2|
|High score among nominees that year: A Grand Don't Come For Free 91 by The Streets|
|2003||Boy in Da Corner by Dizzee Rascal||92||1|
|2002||A Little Deeper by Ms. Dynamite||80||4|
|High score among nominees that year: Original Pirate Material 90 by The Streets|
|2001||Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea by PJ Harvey||88||1|