Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Five

Ali Mason

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (ADA)

Track: My Good Luck

The visceral thrill of seeing Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson's raw stage act doesn't quite transfer to record, but his pounding, shambolic rock anthems (Woodfriend, My Good Luck) and the feeling that you're listening to a man constantly on the brink of a breakdown lend an excitement of their own. The confessional aspect of the songs makes for uncomfortable listening at times, and the album doesn't so much climax as lapse into a musical coma of guilt and self-doubt, but it's raw, affecting stuff.

Rory Dollard

John Vanderslice - Romanian Names (Dead Oceans)

Track: D.I.A.L.O.

When I first heard the burring, rolling static and multi-tracked vocals of DIALO it was love at first listen. It felt like hearing the much-missed Elliott Smith fronting a lost Super Furry Animals track. Strange but brilliant. Romanian Names, the album from which it was hewn, is a varied affair, with the fuzzy edges present on DIALO occasionally giving way to a sparer, more mournful sound. But throughout, Vanderslice, a spritely 42-year-old seven albums into his career, thrills with his playful use of melody and layered production.

Dom Farrell

Seasick Steve - Man From Another Time (Warner Bros.)

Track: Diddley Bo

One of the more surprising and welcome breakthrough acts of the decade, self proclaimed “song and dance” man Seasick Steve returned in 2009 with Man From Another Time. Following hot on the heels of Dog House Music and I Started Out With Nothing And I Still Got Most of it Left – records on the back of which Seasick has deservedly established himself as a thrilling live act and a festival favourite – Man From Another Time is perhaps a little more laid back than its predecessors. Just Because I Can (CSX) and Dark provide genuine touching moments, carried effortlessly by Steve’s heartfelt sincerity. Never Go West provides a telling reminder of his trademark blues stomp, but it is raucous opener Diddley Bo that leaves the most indelible impression.

Andy Welch

Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (Warp)

Track: Two Weeks

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood called Grizzly Bear his “Favourite band in the world” after they supported the Oxford quintet on their 2008 American tour. Paul Simon turned up at one of their shows to personally invite them to appear at a series of concerts and Fleet Foxes’ frontman Robin Pecknold said this was the best album in a decade. With so many famous fans and critical adoration at every turn, it’d be easy to hate Grizzly Bear and write them off nothing more than a hype band. To do so would be to miss out on glorious, glorious music though. Hard to describe but easy to love, Veckatimest, the band’s fourth record, draws on everything from jazz and doo wop to folk and Sixties pop – namely Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys – which makes for a seriously special album.

Guy Atkinson

Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer (Jagjaguwar)

Idiot Heart

Spencer Krug from Wolf Parade branches out again with another collection of stunningly grandiose anthems - this is the record Arcade Fire should have made after Funeral. Contains the year's best song in the shape of 'Idiot Heart'.

Pranam Prabhakar

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (V2)

Track: 1901

Phoenix produce the kind of artful pop that makes me thinks of Deloreans, shades, neon and shoulder pads. This is no bad thing. Listen to 1901 while eating a Pepsi ice cream float, and all will temporarily seem right in the world.

John Skilbeck

Daniel Johnston - Is And Always Was (Feraltone)

Track: Freedom

In November I caught a rare Daniel Johnston show, when he played the first of two sold-out nights at Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club. His short run of UK gigs followed the release of Is And Always Was, though you’d have hardly known he had a new record given he was more interested in ripping through a flurry of Beatles covers. Nevertheless, the album was a good ‘un. Just as with 2003’s Mark Linkous-aided Fear Yourself, Johnston was supported by a professional backing band, meaning the ramshackle sound which has become his calling card was replaced by a more pop shine. Anathema to some purists perhaps, but it worked well, and Johnston has always worshipped pop groups so becoming ‘the singer in the band’ was never going to prove a hardship. Moreover there were no further compromises and Johnston was clearly in charge, singing to his late pooch (Queenie The Dog), coming over all ‘60s garage band on Fake Records of Rock And Roll, and covering familiar lyrical ground in touching and always witty hymns to love, life and death.

Matt Collins

Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young (Rough Trade)

Track: Left & Right in the Dark

Filling in time in the ever widening gaps between Strokes records? Hardly. Well, halfly. Lead singer Julian Casablancas has done what everyone wanted his band to do, which is essentially release a Strokes record. The first half is four to the floor tight Last Nite-tastic action, up there with the finest songwriting of the last year, and the second half a drifty is-he-making-it-up-as-he-goes-along? mess. It’s like they never went away.


Portico Quartet - Isla (Real World)

Track: Isla

I first saw the Portico Quartet busking on the South Bank about three years ago. Looking like a bunch of posh, unwashed students with exotic instruments bought on their gap year, the signs weren’t good but the music they teased out was a thing of simple beauty. Their second LP sees John Leckie try and broaden their hypnotic jazz sound and while it lacks the tight punch of Cittagazze from their debut, this is still a gorgeous soundtrack for kite-flying days.


The Dirty Guv'nahs - The Dirty Guv'nahs (Dualtone)

Track: Borrowed Time

Having been on it for 18 months, I've still not fully figured out my relationship with Twitter, but if it's brought me one thing, it's brought me The Dirty Guv'nahs. I expect I'd have stumbled upon them sooner rather than later anyway - a good friend in Tennessee feeds me most music out of my one-time home Knoxville - but instead the band came to me via a wee tweet. I'm sure glad they did. Their sound harks back to the Stones or Black Crowes, and their impassioned live performances have become legendary in East Tennessee. They're currently up north at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock recording the follow-up. Can't wait to hear what that sounds like...


  1. How's the order being decided Parky, through your own opinion of the choices? Something more random? Something more SINISTER hmm?

  2. The order is that used for the original intro piece, which was largely random, whatever order I found the emails in, and then I wrote mine last. I can't really be bothered to change it. I assure you it's not sinister.