It’s hard to distinguish what is a “good” album and what is a “bad” album these days. Most of the time readers of these sorts of articles disagree with what is judged as “bad” and have some pointed opinions… and for good reason: there isn’t a standard for what is good and what is not. Critics and reviewers who base their professional life on judging the newest album releases could easily be following popular opinion, not forming their own. This week we’ve been graced with Lady Gaga’s 3rd full length and a double feature from Boris.I realized these albums belong in a sub-category of their own. Now, I will introduce this week’s bad, bad/good, good, and great album of the week.

The Bad

Art Brut, Brilliant! Tragic!

This English/German rock band has been around for a while, but honing their craft album after album hasn’t exactly paid off yet. Brilliant! Tragic! is aptly named for the tragic reviews it’s been receiving:

  • Pitchfork: “And then halfway through the album, it seems like even Argos has started to think all this is a bad idea, reverting back for the remainder to his old patterns of speech and shouting… In all this talk about talking, the band Argos originally hired through an ad in the back pages of the NME gets short shrift. But trust that they still sound very much like a band hired from the back pages of the NME: competent rock hands with equal flair for squealing guitar solos and pop backing vocals, easy showmen but not exactly showy.” — Eric Grandy
  • Slant Magazine: “Most of Brilliant! Tragic! is far less insightful, with Argos’s smart-aleck lyrics existing primarily for his own amusement. On “Martin Kemp,” he gives a scathing review of his schoolboy crushes, but it’s unclear what, if anything, the song has to do with the titular British soap star, and on “Ice Hockey,” self-pitying lyrics about being launched into space mar what could have otherwise been a perfectly respectable Spiritualized rip” — Matthew Cole

Brilliant! Tragic! is available on Amazon for $11.75

The Bad/Good

Lady Gaga, Born This Way

Lady Gaga is phenomenal, there’s no denying that. On her latest album Born This Way, she’s managed to rake in some of the best reviews as well as the most critical, as fans and critics have compared her music to Madonna and even called her a plagiarist:

  • Boston Globe: “Gaga mines her usual themes — acceptance, tolerance, religion, sex — but the songwriting feels thin, especially when buried under the layers of bombast. Nuance is her enemy on this album. Her championing of underdogs and outsiders has always been noble, but a slogan doesn’t equal substance, as “Bad Kids’’ points out. Not that Gaga will go down as the great lyricist of her time, but at least her previous hits stuck in your brain for their playfulness… There’s hardly anything carefree on Born This Way.” — James Reed
  • Guardian: “Such fears on the musical front, however, do not last long – Marry the Night’s softer stylings are soon sent packing by what Gaga had always promised would be “sledgehammering dance beats”. It’s a pattern that holds throughout Born This Way. No matter how a song begins – pizzicato strings, operatic vocals, 80s rawk guitar – it’s soon engulfed in buzzsaw synths and robo-precise rhythms. This is shameless, club-orientated pop that aims for instant impact.” — Tim Jonze

Born This Way is available on Amazon for $7.99

Boris, Attention Please and Heavy Rocks

Boris is releasing two albums on the same day. I have no idea who’s executive decision it was, but it seems as if its been working in their favor…. most of the time:

  • Pitchfork: “[Attention Please 7.1, Heavy Rocks 5.2] This moment, then, is not only Boris’ look-how-popular-we-are exclamation but also their look-how-much-we’ve-grown assertion; essentially, Attention Please and Heavy (Heavier?) Rocks are logical next steps for the Boris legacy. But riddled as this pair of albums is with confounding musical indecision and listless stylistic repetition, they mostly serve as reminders of how remarkable and inventive Boris have been and often threaten to be. Heavy Rockswas sturdier back in 2002, while the appropriately titled Attention Please– even if the more interesting of these two discs– is a flimsy showcase for Boris guitarist Wata as a would-be college-rock frontwoman.” — Grayson Currin
  • Rock Sound: “…in the case of ‘Heavy Rocks’, they’re also recycling the title of an old one. Still, said record does exactly what it says on the tin, veering between fuzzed-up garage rock stomp and mesmeric psychedelic sprawl in a manner that’s sure to delight fans of 09’s ‘Smile’. More intriguing, however, is ‘Attention Please’, in which guitarist Wata assumes the role of lead vocalist, her honeyed tones providing some of the band’s most outwardly ‘pop’ moments to date. Stunning.” — Mike Kemp

Heavy Rocks and Attention Please are available on Amazon for $13.58

The Good

Fireworks, Gospel

Fireworks weren’t always easily distinguishable from the likes of pop punk Warped Tour bands; New Found Glory comparisons certainly pigeonholed the band to some extent. On Gospel, though, the tables have turned and their sound has ripened:

  • Rock Sound: “With pop-punk enjoying something of a revival as of late, Fireworks are repeatedly cited as genre champions by the diehards. ‘Gospel’ won’t do a great deal to change that… This is a good record. ‘Oh Why Can’t We Start Old And Get Younger?’ proves to be the album’s simmering gem… Perseverance with ‘Gospel’ does bring its rewards, however – don’t dismiss this by any means” — Andy Richie
  • AltPress: “Their sophomore LP, Gospel, is yet another positive stride for the band as they continue to shed their once tributary flair and morph into an earnest, unique pop-punk outfit. Remote traces of hardcore and skate-punk add a lift in tempo and increase brashness, while chunky power-pop muscle enhances amicable melodies. Frontman David Mackinder’s voice has become a little less nasally and somewhat more wistful, and it gels with the band’s refreshingly dynamic (and often dainty) guitars.” — Brian Shultz

Gospel is available on Amazon for $14.48

The Great

Foster The People, Torches

This week we are proud to crown Foster The People’s Torches as album of the week. It seems to have everything that pleases the critics, both melodically and thematically, so check out this latest release and see for yourself what all the critics are raving about:

  • Blare Magazine: “Yet instead of staying in the lines of pop, Foster The People blend retro guitar and psychedelic synth (“Color On The Walls”) that melt into Torches’ assortment of hippie style jams. Add in guitarist Mark Foster’s ability to successfully mix his storyteller lyrics with the group’s summer seduction beats and the result – a tasty new flavor of mainstream – is hard to shake off.” — Stacey Copeland
  • Under The Gun Review: “Following on from their self-titled EP, this debut full length from Californian band Foster the People is a quiet, relatively unassuming release, mixing ambience and flair… this is a perfectly decent album, ambient and undemanding and making for quite soothing listening.” — Grace Duffy

Torches is available on Amazon for $7.89