1. Hanna-McEuen, Hanna-McEuen (DreamWorks)
As drab and unremarkable as mashed potatoes, Hanna-McEuen is a couple of lonesome, heartbroken cowboys who whip out every cliché in the cornball country songbook. These two cousins (both sons of members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) sing about "making love 'til the morning light," "sittin' in a pool of the warmest tears," being "caught between a rock and a heartache" and other such gushy drivel. Hanna and McEuen describe what they do as "real" country music, but then where are the honky-tonk harlots, rampant adultery, half-baked, born-again Christianity and redneck declarations of independence? Any of that sort of crap would be an improvement over just whining about some lame girl.
2. Weezer, Make Believe (Geffen)
Weezer has written some truly repulsive songs, like "Buddy Holly" and "Island in the Sun," and watched them inexplicably become gigantic hits, but the band's never before been responsible for anything as criminal as "Beverly Hills." This is easily the most irritating song of the year, with its Vanilla Ice-style rapping and paint-a-hit-by-numbers melody. On the other hand, "This Is Such a Pity," a song about domestic dysfunction, also off Make Believe, is rather mature and heartfelt. But it hardly excuses the usual sappy harmonies, overblown hubris and limp rock that rule every Weezer record.
3. Liz Phair, Somebody's Miracle (Capitol)
Once revolutionary and a little bit dreamy, Liz Phair has managed to desecrate her former image, and now produces bland, Sheryl Crow-like pop music for SUV-driving career women. Back in the day, when she was championed by horny rock critics and defiant riot grrrls, Phair wrote songs that were alarmingly personal and down-to-earth. Now, her glossy tunes fit perfectly as a backdrop to buying sweaters at a shopping mall.
4. The Click Five, Greetings From Imrie House (Lava)
The Click Five are not a real band. In fact, they are the creation of evil record company mad scientists, who mixed some genomes from past boy bands, added a dose of wishy-washy modern pop-punk, mop-top haircuts and some New Wave bullshit, dropped it all into a test tube and then scurried away from the laboratory at top speed after witnessing the birth of the unholy monstrosity they'd fashioned. Now, the world is a less safe place, as evidenced by the Click Five's single "Just the Girl," a truly sickening beast capable of causing massive brain hemorrhaging and vomit spewing.
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5. Ben Lee, Awake Is the New Sleep (New West)
A brief sensation in his mid-teens during the '90s, Ben Lee was a spunky, much-hyped troubadour with a beyond-his-years gift for songwriting. Now in his mid-20s, Lee combines Eastern religious mumbo jumbo and overly earnest indie-pop on his latest gooey album, which was "made possible by the grace, love and guidance of Narayani Amma." This hippie/New Age direction will be a prickly one for many listeners who may wince when they hear lyrics like "I'm thinking about how I just want to open up and give and give and give . . ."
6. Nickelback, All the Right Reasons (Roadrunner)
Some random things that come to mind when listening to this album: tractors, lumberjacks, Canadian woodchucks, happy hour at a gross Mexican chain restaurant, real men, bad perms, faithful dogs, real, sensitive men, hanging out at the gym talking about sports, pecs, abs, a little butt slap from a good buddy after a tight workout, fake vintage tee shirts, dudes named Chad and Ryan, real men wearing blue jeans, Brokeback Mountain, a Sunday game of touch football with the boys, chili con carne.