Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number One

It's here folks.

The website I usually use to put music on here last night took an ill-timed decision to start producing exotic error messages - producing no end of teeth-gnashing here at Ragged Glories HQ - so I've had to change it up to a different system, but hopefully it all still works.

Without further ado, allow me to present Day One of the Musical Advent Calendar.

Below our 10 panellists present their 24th best album of 2009.

Ali Mason

Taxi Taxi! - Still Standing At Your Back Door (Fierce Panda)

Track: Old Big Trees

Taxi Taxi!, not to be confused with Brooklyn five-piece Taxi Taxi, are Swedish twins Johanna and Miriam Eriksson, whose first full-length album is fragile and beautiful. The pair sing about love and loss - loss mostly - in simple but affecting terms (“we don‘t see the same side of the moon at night”, Same Side of the Moon), while their, and I’m sorry to use this word, sweet voices can‘t help but complement each other. The vocals drip with longing, so even the more upbeat tracks…well, track (Old Big Trees)…sounds blissfully melancholic, while the instrumentation is slow, sparse and deliberate, never more doleful than on closer Mary. Sounds better with every listen.

Rory Dollard

NASA - Spirit of Apollo (Anti-)

Track: Spacious Thoughts (feat. Kool Keith and Tom Waits)

By some distance the year's most unusual cast list, but also one of the most entertaining. Tom Waits? Check. David Byrne? Check. Assorted Wu Tang Clan members? Check. Kanye West, Lykke Li and Santogold - all on the same song? Oh yes. As an album it neccessarily lacks coherence but you are never more than 90 seconds away from a startling cameo

Dom Farrell

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (Honest Jon's)

Track: War

I first clapped eyes on this lot on an episode of 'Later with Jools Holland' earlier in the year. In the middle of the studio where Jools usually minces around conducting the contrived opening jam between all of the night’s chosen artists was a drummer with eight horn players standing around him in a circle, blasting him with a cacophony of sound as they swayed to his nailed down funk beat. Apart from the drummer’s almost inevitable tinnitus, there was nothing not immensely like. Thankfully Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s eponymous LP manages to deliver on this promise. Funk and soul draw upon the best of the New Orleans Jazz tradition to produce an incredibly enjoyable record. Thirteen trumpet-driven largely instrumental tracks means the album can at times seem a little one paced. But it is a hell of a pace.

Andy Welch

Asobi Seksu - Hush (One Little Indian)

Track: Layers

With a name that means ‘playful sex’ in Japanese, you might expect New York dream-poppers Asobi Seksu to produce sultry, seductive music, and that they do. Hush is their third album and tones down the fuzzy guitars of their eponymous debut and follow up Citrus, replacing them with chiming arpeggios and a solid wall of synths. Yuki Chikudate’s dazzling voice remains the band’s best asset, drawing the listener in like a siren and never sounds better than on the dramatic, epic Layers. Hush fills a narrow niche, but by crikey it does it perfectly.

Guy Atkinson

Converge - Axe To Fall (Epitaph)

Track: Dark Hors

The modern sound of hardcore has never sounded so threatening or fearless. Riffs so enormous they make Jordan's tits look like Smarties combined with some of the most pulsating drumming this side of Slayer makes this album a must for anyone who has a penchant for 'the 'eavy

Pranam Prabhakar

The Crystal Stilts - Alight of Night (Angular)

Track: Departur

Crystal Stilts have a great sound. A sound that's repeated succesfully over the 11 tracks that make their debut album. I like their sound and Departure captures it best. I look forward to hearing the 'new sound' they cultivate for their second album..

John Skilbeck

The Medusa Snare - Cinderella (Squirrel)

Track: NCY

When Leeds noiseniks The Manhattan Love Suicides' split was revealed on a Derbyshire steam train in July, the disappointment only lasted as long as it took for Adam John Miller's spin-off band The Medusa Snare to strike up the first chords of their excellent debut album. The MLS had traded in a fuzzed-up, JAMC-inspired sound, and although The Medusa Snare did not veer too far from the same template - this is a loud record at whatever volume you play it at - there were fresh, perhaps more poppy moments to enjoy. Miller takes lead vocals but they are often way back in the mix with his guitar more often than not the star.

Matt Collins

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz (Geffen)

Track: Dragon Queen

I love the fact that this is an act that are popular and good - not a typical combination in my experience. Much is made of Karen O's sexiness and stage presence which I can't comment on, but these are disco indie pop songs bolshily delivered by a hot woman, so we're on a winner. It's not all fun fun fun either, born out by Skeletons, the short break from the good night out this album soundtracks.


Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon (Universal)

Track: The End of the Day (Pursuit of Happiness)

Hip hop isn’t normally the place for sprawling, five-act conceptual masterpieces about space exploration and inner visions, but then Kid Cudi isn’t your average rapper. A protege of Kanye, the Cleveland kid invited MGMT and electro geniuses Ratatat along for the best track, Pursuit of Happiness, creating his own stoned-psych hybrid of pop along the way.


The Heartless Bastards - The Mountain (Fat Possum)

Track: The Mountain

After completly reforming the Heartless Bastards, Erika Wennerstrom re-emerged with a fuller sound but the same characteristic rootsy rock. With her new line up, Wennerstrom clearly feels emboldened to try plenty of new ideas, mixing in greater instrumentation and even a handful of acoustic tracks. But as the opening title track demonstrates, they've lost none of their edge.

Let the debates begin.

Join us tomorrow to see what is behind door number two...


  1. My review has already caused offence in the office. This doesn't bode well for the following 23 reviews.

  2. Just the review or the selection itself?

  3. It was a certain word. It was light-hearted offence, but I'm still feeling rather sheepish. Damn my potty mouth.

  4. A great start all round I think. I love this project. I liked Asobi Seksu and Crystal Stilts particularly. And there isn't a single other album behind door one I own - let alone one in my top 24. I'm beginning to agree with Ian that this could become very, very expensive.

  5. Love that Taxi Taxi! track, and I think I'll be revisiting Heartless Bastards.

  6. Yeah, a great selection here. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and The Medusa Snare were my fave raves. You'll all be pleased to hear that my first track is quite comfortably the heaviest on my list.