Monday, December 07, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Seven

Lucky number seven.

How lucky do you have to be to be our No. 18 albums of the year?

This lucky...

Ali Mason

Noah And The Whale - The First Days Of Spring (Mercury)

Track: Stranger

Charlie Fink makes his pitch for this year's Bon Iver Prize for Stalking Through Popular Music by documenting his break-up with Laura Marling in Noah And The Whale's second album. Just because you have a record deal doesn't mean it's not creepy. It's a world away from happy-clappy 5 Years Time which made them mainstream stars and it's utterly compelling, though it's sheer honesty - particularly on Stranger, an account of a one-night stand written as a confessional - will have you blushing, curling your toes and trying not to catch anybody's eye.

Rory Dollard

Alberta Cross - Broken Side of Time (Ark)

Track: Old Man Chicago

Quite apart from looking like the band from Almost Famous, Alberta Cross have plenty going for them. Imagine if Kings of Leon had rehearsed in Levon Helm’s barn rather than a downtown garage and you’ll be somewhere close to the feelgood blues-rock they deal in. Neil Young is a clear influence on Petter Ericsson’s guitar playing and vocal delivery but their British/Scandinavian roots mean their influences are never treated too reverentially.

Dom Farrell

The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die (Cooking Vinyl)

Track: Warriors Dance

The past 18 months have been awash with a host of new electro pretenders. Thankfully, the latest generation of techno noodlers seem to have prompted Liam Howlett and co to come back and show them how it’s done – with a serious pair of balls attached. Following on from the hugely underwhelming Always Outnumbers: Never Outgunned and that peculiar single about Rohypnol (belting idea that one chaps), Invaders Must Die is a thrillingly triumphant return to form. The record is a tour de force built upon the three colossal pillars of lead off single Omen, Warrior Dance and Take Me To The Hospital and it allowed the Prodigy to be one of the major success stories of the summer festival circuit. Music that can make tens of thousands of persistent souls in a soggy field go absolutely roller-skating bonkers is always worth taking note of.

Andy Welch

The Temper Trap (Infectious)

Track: Sweet Disposition

When Melbourne band The Temper Trap released their debut album back in June, most of the reviews just said they sounded like Coldplay, U2 and Jeff Buckley. As the album is full of huge songs, guitars dripping in Edge-esque delay and soaring falsetto, courtesy of the band’s star Dougy Mandagi, it’s impossible to deny those comparisons. It is, however, a crime that so many people will have ignored this record because of a few poorly used reference points. Mandagi’s voice is like a force of nature, somehow injecting emotion into the often workaday lyrics, and in Sweet Disposition, Fader, Love Lost and Science Of Fear, they’ve managed to make the much-mocked genre of epic melodic rock sound utterly exciting.

Guy Atkinson

The Antlers - Hospice (Frenchkiss Recordings)

Track: Two

A concept album about the death of a loved one from bone cancer written by a social recluse? Go on then. While the subject matter is of the bleakest nature imaginable and the lyrics almost crumbling under the weight of crippling despair, these songs retain a sense of grandeur and euphoria that almost defies belief. One of the most raw and emotionally affecting albums I've heard. It's only after writing this that I realise the folly of me putting so far down my list.

Pranam Prabhakar

Passion Pit – Manners (Columbia)

Track: Sleepyhead

A record jam-packed with pop pleasures, including this track which somehow manges to use the ‘sped-up vocal technique' quite tastefully. Those of you who live in Manchester may find me listening to this on a mobile phone at the back of a bus.

John Skilbeck

Brilliant Colors – Introducing (Slumberland)

Track: Over There

Ten tracks in 22 minutes! The longest stretching out to 2:45! Waves of choppy guitar distortion and yelping girl vocals! Riot grrrl meets C86 and gets it on! Amazing hooks – check that simple but lethal guitar riff in Over There, and find it repeated in the very next track! If it works once, it works twice!! Another awesome triumph for Slumberland Records (check out the Champagne Socialists and Frankie Rose 7”s on the same label)! Er, revolution, girl style now?

Matt Collins

Adrian Crowley - Season of the Sparks (Chemikal Underground)

Track: Season of the Sparks

Adrian Crowley's trade is homespun heartfelt singer songwriter indie folk tunes. Hardly a recipe for originality, granted, but then not everyone who picks up a guitar could or should be the new Hendrix. The results are equally heartwarming and heartbreaking, and he toys with song structure just enough to steer his ship on the right side of James Blunt.


Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (V2)

Track: Fences

The Versailles Strokes make the list by virtue of being one of the only bands to record an album in 2009 without a single duff track. Wolfgang... was one of those glorious guitar pop records that slipped by smooth and sleek, without the lethargy of their second or the repetition of their third. And in the age of mp3 playlists, the unskippable album is something to be treasured.


Patterson Hood - Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs) (ADA)

Track: Murdering Oscar

If I was making a list of my favourite albums of all time, the Drive-By Truckers' 'The Dirty South' would be somewhere near the top (just underneath about 10 or so Neil Young albums). But while the critical commendations have continued to pile in for the Truckers on subsequent releases, I'm not sure they've made a great album since their 2004 masterpiece. The decline seemed to coincide with Jason Isbell leaving the band to go solo (and the quality of his first album certainly showed what they were missing, even if the second failed to back it up). But just when I was beginning to fear that the Drive-By Truckers no longer have it, key songwriter Patterson Hood unleashes a solo album that takes us right back to Dirty South era Truckers. Savour it, just in case it takes another five years for it to happen again.


  1. This must be the most boring selection of albums so far. Not a single comment. Meanwhile, I've been alerted to another possible upcoming Release Gate incident. If it turns out to be true, I apologise in advance.

  2. I tried to make a comment earlier, but my computer crashed instead. I was offering a tip of the cap to Mr Welch who, not for the first time, has offered up the best thing I'd never heard of before.

  3. While I couldn't get to grips with the whole Prodigy album, 'Warriors Dance' would be in my top five singles of the year.

  4. Ian, seriously - do you not own a radio? How have you not heard Sweet Disposition before...?

  5. What's the point in a record collection if you're going to be dictated to by the radio?

  6. Meanwhile, I genuinely can't remember what I went for tomorrow. I'm excited to find out...

  7. I think Ali is right, it is Releasegate 2... Passion Pit is 2008, surely?

  8. Aw, no... I'm not sure it is. Passion Pit is 2009 on allmusic and amazon but my daft ass iTunes told me it was '08 so I didn't pick it. Whatever, I'm with Pranam, it's a sweet album.