Friday, December 04, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Four

It's day four, so it is.

Which makes it the No. 21 albums of the year.

Once again, for the newbies, here's a wee intro.

Over to the panel.

Ali Mason

The Unthanks - Here's The Tender Coming (Rough Trade)

Track: Here's The Tender Coming

At a time when anyone with an acoustic guitar is labeled a folk musician, it's good to be reminded what proper folk music sounds like. The Unthanks have had a subtle change of their name and return with a collection of songs which are witty and warm, yet unquestionably bleak, typified in The Testimony of Patience Kershaw. The music is rooted firmly in the band's native Northumberland, a fact reflected in voices of the Unthank sisters, Rachel and Becky, while the arrangements are rich and allow the songs to move at their own gentle pace.

Rory Dollard

Headless Heroes - Silence of Love (Names)

Track: Blues Run the Game

Expect to see Nevada folkie Alela Diane feature in the upper reaches of at least one Ragged Glories contributor later this month, but for me her sideshow proved even more interesting. Joining forces with the comedown kings Headless Heroes she lent her fine voice to 10 exquisitely chosen covers which in turn entranced (MBV's Just Like Honey) and enraptured (Nick Cave's Nobody's Baby Now). This reworked Paul Simon cut was perhaps the show-stealer though.

Dom Farrell

The Horrors - Primary Colours (XL)

Track: Primary Colours

A couple of years ago The Horrors were adorning the cover of the NME dressed as comedy goths in cartoon make-up to promote generally pathetic records. If someone had told me then that I’d be holding their second album up as one of 2009’s better efforts, I’d probably have chased them down the street wielding a cricket bat. Imagine my surprise to hear genuinely fantastic music coursing out of Primary Colours. Reference points including My Bloody Valentine, Joy Division and Heaven Up Here-era Echo & The Bunnymen combine to produce an impressively brooding soundscape. This record is a lesson that well layered guitars with classic 50’s style echo produces far more gothic darkness than shit eyeliner ever could.

Andy Welch

Emmy The Great- First Love (Close Harbour)

Track: First Love

I’ve got to admit I actually forgot about this album when I was compiling my list, forcing Mr Parker, the brain behind this crazy scheme to ask the question ‘How much could you have loved an album you didn’t remember to put on the list?’ The long answer included reasons why I was bumping the Manics’ album in favour of this (plus I first heard it at the end of 2008). The short answer is ‘A lot.’ A very lot, in fact. It’s just so damned charming. Emmy’s homespun, anti-folk *shudder* aesthetic could easily grate, coming close on occasion, and there’s nothing particularly innovative about First Love, but the album’s sheer enthusiasm, diary-like lyrics and gorgeous delivery win the day. And, being a weak male just like the one she sings about so dismissively, I’m a sucker for a elfin-looking girl with a fringe and a vintage dress. Resistance is futile.

Guy Atkinson

Dananananaykroyd - Hey Everyone! (Best Before)

Track: Song One Puzzle

Swashbuckling onto the 'toilet circuit' nearly two years ago with two drummers and a tiny clutch of memorable tunes, Dananananaykroyd were always onto a winner with me. Fortunately, they delivered on this early promise in the shape of a raucous debut album which combined playful riffs with sinister vocals to devastating effect. Riff-tastic track 'Song One Puzzle' suitably captures the essence of these Glaswegian upstarts.

Pranam Prabhakar

Dizzee Rascal – Tongue N’ Cheek (Dirtee Stank)

Track: Bonkers

Rascal for PM?
The facts: Dizzee Rascal is now a popstar. He had three successive number one singles this year which soundtracked the summer of 2009.
Ambition and his recent success might have led Mr Rascal to express his ambitions for being a future prime minister. I say: go for it Mr Rascal!
Dizzee has charm in abundance, a winning smile, a way with words and a greater experience of armed combat than any of our recent leaders (Rascal was stabbed in Aiya Napa in 2003, lest we forget).
With this track, Mr Rascal reintroduced 'Bonkers' into the national lexicon. And for this, he should be thanked.
Sell out? Not a chance!

John Skilbeck

Sky Larkin - The Golden Spike (Polydor)

Track: Molten

A second Leeds band on the list (and the last, I promise), for a while I was undecided over Sky Larkin. Promoted to me as close musical cousins of Sleater-Kinney, that turned out to be pretty misleading. But rather than hold the fact they were not S-K against them forever, I came around to their sound and their debut album which appeared on Wichita in February. What is certain is that they trade in the catchy guitar pop I would have absolutely swooned over at the turn of the century - coincidentally singer Katie White has a voice which is eerily similar to that of Eliza Geirsdottir, the singer from that almost-big-in-2000 Icelandic band Bellatrix. So it made me feel 22 for a while, making it well worth its place in the chart.

Matt Collins

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Where There Are Mountains (Memphis Industries)

Track: Wind Phoenix (Proper Name)

Cymbals Eat Guitars are an oddball New York indie rock band. Made from a very different cast to The Strokes et al, they eschew straight up pop songs for turning their amps up to 11, riding the often slow and lilting waves of feedback and occasionally shouting some crazed and earnest phrases over distant microphones. Strangely, it works, particularly in this track. Refreshingly barmy.


M Ward - Hold Time (4AD)

Track: Rave On

In between moonlighting with the impossibly pretty Zooey Deschanel in She & Him and the impossibly hairy Jim James in Monsters of Folk, M Ward’s fifth solo album was easy to miss. Those who did skipped past it passed up one of the year’s most heartfelt albums, packed with dusty gems that sounded like a sandblasted ELO or a jauntier, mid-western version of early Tom Waits.


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

Track: Tennessee

'Tennessee' was the first song I'd heard by this lot, and from it I had them marked down as a fairly charming Americana outfit. It turns out they do so much more, with an album rooted in, er, rootsy country, but with a healthy dose of melodic pop thrown in, not least thanks to collaborator Brendan Benson. So why did I stick Tennessee up here, rather than something more representative? Well, I'll let you enjoy the same voyage of discovery as I did.


  1. Despite the inevitable backlash from the rest of the panel, I would generally call her Emmy the All Right. But the sentence of that review ’I'm a sucker for a elfin-looking girl with a fringe and a vintage dress." is so stupidly true that I'll give it a thumbs up.

  2. The only backlash will be from Dollard. I'd go with Emmy The Fair To Middling.

  3. Okay, there's no way of getting around this. i love Emmy the Great. I love everything about the album. I love the B-sides. I love the demos. I love her voice. I love her lyrics.
    Also, kudos to her for calling the band Emmy the Great despite knowing that every single reviewer has gone for an "Emmy the *insert different adjective* gag. Consider this the expected backlash.

  4. Good list today though. I own about half of them and like all of the ones i hadn't heard*

    *by 'all' i mean 'all except Dizzee Rascal'. obviously.

  5. Agreed, good list today. One tiny thing... Headless Heroes is awesome but it is sooooo 2008. I got it last year for sure, plus Amazon and Allmusic list it as November 2008. I demand a recount!

  6. SP raises a valid point.

    Dollard, you're a plank. I figured everyone would be able to handle something like the year of release...Ah well, not much we can do about it now. Except stick an asterisk next to it, of course.