Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The least essential albums of 2015

Lil Bub

Each and every year, The A.V. Club scours our inboxes—both real and web-based—in an attempt to find that year’s least essential albums. These might not be the worst records of the year, but they’re the dumbest, marking not only the decline of the music industry but of civilized society in general. Don’t say we didn’t warn you: These are the least essential records of 2015.

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Easiest way to turn your newborn baby into a horrible human being:
Rockabye Baby!, Lullaby Renditions Of Sublime

Sure, Sublime is best known as the band with a lead singer that overdosed on heroin and songs about smoking joints and being “hornier than Ron Jeremy,” but that doesn’t mean their songs can’t be cleaned up and turned into children’s songs, right? Wrong. While Rockabye Baby’s line of rock and pop lullaby LPs is a charming enough idea, forcing Sublime tracks into the premise is a recipe for disaster, even if there are probably some “Santeria” loving parents out there who’d purchase this for their (probably already doomed) child. For crying out loud, there’s a neutered instrumental version of “Caress Me Down” on here, despite the fact that the original song has lyrics like “and then she pulled out my mushroom tip / And when it came out, it went drip, drip, drip / I didn’t know she had the G.I. Joe, kung-fu grip.” That’s just charming. [Marah Eakin]

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Least essential album by a pony:
DJ Pon-3, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Remixed

For those who haven’t followed My Little Pony’s recent resurgence—and no one would blame you—DJ Pon-3 is the stage name of a DJing pony whose real name is Vinyl Scratch. And because My Little Pony is nothing if not a marketing juggernaut, that pony actually released an album this year—or, rather, with the help of a number of mid-level remixers and a couple of studio musicians, released an album of tranced-out, lit-up remixes of songs from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. If that sounds like a convoluted idea, it’s because it is, making this record not only a fans-only proposition, but also one of the least essential albums of the year. It’s an EDM record made by a fictional cartoon pony with a dumb DJ name. Enough said. [Marah Eakin]

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Most inessential live record by a legacy act:
Van Halen’s Tokyo Dome Live In Concert

The most galling fact about Van Halen’s decision to put out this completely unnecessary live record is that the group had a wealth of better options if it really wanted a release to tour behind this year. The band could have collected a number of recordings from its Black Sabbath-ass-kicking peak in 1978-79. It could have remastered a single show from its “no brown M&M’s” over-the-top 1984 tour. Hell, Van Halen could have even dusted off the heavily bootlegged demo tape it made with KISS’ Gene Simmons in 1976. But in the face of all that extraordinary, vital, and historically important material, Van Halen decided to present the world with a recording of a show from just two years ago as its first official live record with lead singer David Lee Roth. It’s not just an inessential record; it’s a borderline insulting one for Van Halen fans. [Corbin Reiff]

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Least essential retrospective:
Creed’s With Arms Wide Open: A Retrospective

The fact that Creed’s recent retrospective has three different versions of “With Arms Wide Open”—a “new version” with strings, an acoustic version, and a live acoustic version—says it all: No one needs it. This three-CD, 40-song release is yet another instance of Creed loudly proclaiming its own musical significance without a hint of irony, even though the band’s true cultural value lies within its virtually unparalleled ability to provide comedic fodder. (See any of the “Creed Shreds videos.) With Arms Wide Open is also an exclusive Walmart title, which is just depressing. This hubristic retrospective once again justifies Creed’s standing as one of the most ridiculed and reviled bands in rock. [J.J. Anselmi]

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Least essential post-script to an already inessential album:
Fall Out Boy, Make America Psycho Again

Fall Out Boy followed up 2013’s excellent Save Rock And Roll with the oppressively overproduced, occasionally abrasive, and thoroughly disappointing American Beauty/American Psycho this year. And what better way to underline that album’s deficiencies than to release an interminable hip-hop remix of it? A bunch of big names—Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Ferg, Azealia Banks, I Love Makonnen, and Joey Bada$$ among them—shrug their way through the tepid remixes, the nadir arriving in the album’s penultimate track when The Roots’ Black Thought appears for a whopping 35 seconds toward the end of a lifeless version of “Immortals.” If Fall Out Boy wants to remix anything, could it instead edit out Courtney Love from Save Rock And Roll’s “Rat A Tat”? [Kyle Ryan]

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Least essential cash-in on internet infamy:
Lil Bub, Science & Magic

There’s no question that Lil Bub is a beloved internet personality, a model cat-izen, and very, very cute. Her burgeoning musical career, however, is a rare misstep. Call it false feline advertising: Despite being trumpeted as the “very first full-length concept album written by a magical space cat”—and in spite of a testimonial from Andrew W.K. about its authenticity—Bub’s debut LP, Science & Magic, has very little of her creative pawprint, save for some occasional samples of her throaty purrs, and keening yowls and meows. Instead, the LP is a collection of pleasant but forgettable electronic music touching on chirpy chiptune, 8-bit NES game music, and faintly psychedelic synthpop. The musicians responsible for Science & Magic, Bub’s owner/producer Mike Bridavsky and friend Matt Tobey, would’ve been better off not forcing their charge into some gimmicky artistic project. After all, she brings more than enough joy to the world simply by just being her usual adorable cat self. [Annie Zaleski]

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Least essential collection of anime theme songs:
Rain City Rockers, Anime EP

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Featuring members of Sum 41 and Goldfinger, Rain City Rockers has supergroup ambitions without the resumé to warrant that designation. On the follow-up to its debut album, Mayday, the band went straight for gimmicky nostalgia, covering four theme songs from animated shows, and including an original inspired by that source material. The result is the Anime EP, which sees Rain City Rockers offer up competent takes on the Pokémon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, and Dragonball Z themes, but without an ounce of energy to be found in any of the tracks. At its best, this collection could be considered inconsequential, but it’s the inclusion of the lone original, “If You Don’t Like Pikachu,” that sinks the whole affair. With hackneyed references, and an overly simplistic rhyme scheme, it’s an uninspired end to an EP that seemed to lack passion from the start. But, thankfully, it’s all over in a mere seven minutes. [David Anthony]

Laziest way to compensate for a lack of new material:
Whitesnake, The Purple Album

David Coverdale is the lead singer of Whitesnake. Before that, he tangled with the heavy metal pioneers in Deep Purple, singing lead vocals on Burn, Stormbringer and Come Taste The Band. Because writing new songs is hard, Coverdale decided to re-record some of the best cuts from those Deep Purple albums using the “twin guitar attack” of Whitesnake. Being that it’s louder, glossier, and uncanny by virtue of being an inferior version of something that already exists, the resulting Purple Album has all the resonance of this year’s Poltergeist remake. It’s not even like Whitesnake was all that different from Deep Purple. Reinterpreting Deep Purple cuts via Whitesnake is like making a sandwich with white bread instead of wheat. To be fair, Coverdale claims the album was inspired by the death of Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord in 2012, but if he really wanted to honor him, why not remaster the originals, dig up some demos, or donate the proceeds to charity? If it’s any consolation, Coverdale himself admits the whole project came about “after a couple glasses of wine.” We’re as shocked as you are. [Randall Colburn]

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