Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Six

Thank goodness for the system that lets you set up these posts in advance. I wasn't otherwise going to have the thing done this early on a Sunday. (I'm still asleep right now).

Welcome to Day 6...

Ali Mason

Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career (4AD)

Track: French Navy

Note to all bands: never start an album with a song as perfect as French Navy. Not that the rest of My Maudlin Career is bad - it's very, very good. The sweet melodies and echoey production lend a 1950s feel, while Tracyanne Campbell's warm vocals mask a steeliness in the subverted lovesong lyrics ("I'm going on a date tonight to try to fall out of love with you"). None of the great songs - the aching Careless Love ("I don't think we can really be friends but I'll try again") is another highlight - can match the pop perfection of the album's opener, though.

Rory Dollard

Telepathe – Dance Mother (V2)

Track: Chrome’s On It

A wonderfully forward-thinking brand of dance music that relies on big, atmospheric synth-washes and skittery, anaemic percussion. There is something very enjoyable about the clash between that cold, synthetic music and the recurring vocals of Busy Gangnes and Melissa Livaudis. Their performance is at turns saccharine sweet, glacial and defiant but it always lends a welcome human element to proceedings.

Dom Farrell

Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons - Death Won't Send Me A Letter (Black Seal)

Track: Longer Time At Sea

Death Won’t Send a Letter is a fine collection of songs that sees Cory Chisel take up his place in the linage of American alt-country storytellers. Springsteen is a definite reference point and Longer Time At Sea is loaded with anthemic blue collar swagger. But Chisel is clearly more than the latest Boss clone. So Wrong For Me and Tennessee showcase a gorgeous lightness of touch. And he has one hell of a voice. Death Won’t Send a Letter is an accomplished debut LP and a record brimming with further potential.

Andy Welch

Arctic Monkeys – Humbug (Domino)

Track: Dangerous Animals

Few songwriters seem to have grown and honed their art quite as quickly as Alex Turner has done. From Arctic Monkeys’ heady debut, released less than four years ago, he’s gone from admittedly well-told tales of kebabs and girls drinking tropical Reef to this grizzly collection of songs. Josh Homme’s influence is easy to spot, and it’s not always a good thing. While the funkier elements of the music that shone so brightly before are largely gone, Turner’s wordplay is thankfully as sharp and acerbic as ever, not blunted by fame, money and a move to New York. Let’s be honest, this is the worst Arctic Monkeys album. No, not worst, let’s say ‘least good’ because while it’s not up there with their landmark debut and superior follow-up, it’s still clearly one of the best albums of the year.

Guy Atkinson

Jamie T - Kings & Queens (EMI)

Track: British Intelligence

After originally dismissing Jamie T as Pete Doherty-lite I was thrilled to be proven wrong by his effortlessly tuneful and infectious second album, Kings and Queens. Laced with realism and wry social commentary, the songs rattle along at a breakneck pace as he rallies against state interference, racism and, err, chavs. When he does eventually pause for breath the results are stunning. 'Emily's Heart' and ' Jilly Armeen' showcase his ability to write plaintive love songs, while hinting a bright future for this most English of songwriters.

Pranam Prabhakar

Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand (Vice)

Track: I Saw God

Have you ever put your hands in the pocket of a coat you barely use and found a sweet there that you’d long forgotten? Maybe a lollipop from a curry house that you decided to ‘save for later'. Or perhaps a Foxes glacier mint that now has an attractive coat of dust and fluff.
Have you then proceeded to eat said sweet just to see what will happen?

Take a ride with Black Lips. They're a cheap, dirty, subversive thrill. And much better than Girls Aloud.

John Skilbeck

Annie - Don't Stop (Totally)

Track: I Don't Like Your Band

Possibly my favourite overtly pop star since Kim Wilde was never trusting strangers with her heart, Norwegian artist Annie seems destined to summon critical acclaim from all quarters and reap little in the way of commercial success. Don’t Stop, the follow-up to her classic Anniemal album, continued in the same vein as its predecessor, busting out electropop gems aplenty. Twenty years ago she would have ruled the charts; she still should today. I DJ’d at a club night once, played Annie and the place erupted. A ready-made superstar waiting for her big break, perhaps destined for it never to arrive. Like myself, Annie turned 32 this year. They don’t accept many 32-year-olds beyond pop’s velvet rope. Don’t Stop was the great record Saint Etienne never wrote and Kylie never sang, but which both uberpop icons would have loved to put their name to.

Matt Collins

Why? - Eskimo Snow (Anticon)

Track: Even the Good Wood Gone

The simplest way to describe Why? is via the lazy journalistic comparison method – they are a cross between two other bands, namely hippy indie types The Uglysuit and early 90s novelty noddies They Might Be Giants. In fact, I could swear the lead singer from TMBG has taken his notebook of oddball laugh-out-loud imagery and relieved the Uglysuit’s singer of voal duties. Epic yet hilarious.


Richmond Fontaine - We Used To Think The Freeway Sounded Like A River (Decor)

Track: The Boyfriends

It's always achingly familiar territory with Richmond Fontaine - Bukowski and Carver; The Replacements, American Music Club and Ryan Adams - but they plough it so well. Willy Vlautin's novels have evidently sharpened his eye and the stories power the performances on We Used To Think... more than ever before. Boyfriends is the stand-out, a man seduced by a divorcee who takes him home and does it in front of her son, before flipping it to a flashback of the man's own childhood and his succession of mysterious "uncles". The instability of it all only adds to the heartbreak, while the mariachi trumpet finally makes good on the uncomfortable Calexico-stylings of 2007's Thirteen Cities.


Floating Action - Floating Action (Park The Van)

Track: 50 Lashes

Somehow, I was on the verge of leaving this album off the list all together. So blinded was I by my love of 50 Lashes, I'd come up with some crackpot theory that the rest of the album just wasn't that good. This, of course, is utter bunkum. The sound that Seth Kauffman's band produce is hard to nail down, there are just too many styles somehow melded into one unique sound. I'll let 50 Lashes speak for itself. To me, it's one of the songs of the year - just don't make the same mistake I almost did, because there's plenty more going on here besides.


  1. Completely agree about Camera Obscura... It would be in my Top 30 but tails off so much toward the end, as would Annie, but I've had that album since about 2007 when it was supposed to come out.

  2. Are you're trying to stir up another release date controversy?

  3. I also agree with the concensus. I love the first 3 or 4 songs but i'm not sure i've ever listened to that record start to just begins to feel like a grind.

    Also, in response to what i'm calling Release-Gate, i am offering up the potential post-blog swap of Taken by Trees' East of Eden album in place of Headless Heroes if indeed it was a rogue 2008 release. i've been trying to find a way to crowbar that album in anyway...

  4. Too late for that Dollard. Face it, your list is forever tainted.

  5. No controversy - Don't Stop was ready to go ages ago, then Island postponed the release, then waited a bit and then dropped her. The album's been knocking around for a while, but I think she re-recorded most of the songs for the actual released version. Crackin' album though.