Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Musical Advent Calendar - Door Number Eight

I've been behind the eight ball trying to get this post up on time. How fitting...

Ali Mason

The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Bella Union)

Track: Ticket Taker

Piggybacking on the success of Fleet Foxes, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin masquerades as a harmony-rich beard-folk album before hitting you with the earthy reality. Charlie Darwin and To Ohio are lovely slices of ethereal Americana, Ticket Taker's down-at-heel charm act as a sort of gateway track, before The Horizon Is A Beltway whacks you round the head with a banjo and invites you to a hoedown. A glorious chameleon of an album which rightly revels in its diversity.

Rory Dollard

Sleeping States - Gardens of the North (Bella Union)

Track: Rings of Saturn

There’s something I don’t fully understand about this album, and therein lies its charm. Markland Starkie’s voice is at once detached and welcoming, while the instrumentation is apparently intentionally vague at times. Still waters run deep though and in even the most straightforward of tracks, like the simple bass throb of Rings of Saturn, there is something deeply affecting.

Dom Farrell

The Dead Weather - Horehound (Sony)

Track: Bone House

Another year and another side project for Jack White. Horehound is given immediacy from the off thanks to the smoldering vocals of The Kills’ Alison Mosshart. The brooding darkness of 60 Feet Tall is a stunning way to open proceedings, and by the time White’s pump organ powerhouse I Cut Like A Buffalo chimes in, The Dead Weather are firing on all cylinders. There are numerous other highlights, and sparse production allows filthy guitar parts, some muscular drums and haunting keys to have a whale of a time throughout.

Andy Welch

Julian Casablancas - Phrazes For The Young (Rough Trade)

Track: 11th Dimension

When The Strokes released Is This It in 2001, they gave British music and style such a monumental kick up the arse the effect is still being felt today. Burning so bright so quickly, it was never going to last and by the time of their second album, it seemed they’d already run out of ideas, and by the time of First Impressions Of Earth, not many people cared. Quite why that record was so bland, when individually they’re capable of music as diverse as Little Joy, Nickel Eye or Albert Hammond Jr’s solo albums, is a head-scratcher. If only it had sounded like Phrazes Of The Young, which swaps the late-Seventies garage punk of the The Strokes’ debut for Eighties synths, drums machines and in 11th Dimension, the odd nod to Van Halen’s Jump. Let’s just hope the rest of the quintet take notice.

Guy Atkinson

Sky Larkin - The Golden Spike (Polydor)

Track: Somersault

There's more than meets the eye with this Leeds trio. Not quite the purveyors of twee that many would have you believe, these guys let rip with a liberal smattering of irresistible melodies and weapons-grade choruses across 12 slices of shimmering indie-pop perfection. Underpinned by scuzzy riffs and plundering drums, there's very little not to love about Sky Larkin.

Pranam Prabhakar

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul (No official release)

Track: No track available

This album is so damn good that you can’t buy it. It features members of The Flaming Lips, The Strokes, The Pixies and David Lynch. But you can't buy it.
The reasons why it's not available are long and too complex for me to go into or fully understand. But there's something quite novel and beautiful about an album being released that no one can listen to, especially in an age where some argue that myspace and itunes have made music so accessible that it is almost disposable.
Good luck finding a copy - it's worth the ride.

John Skilbeck

Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions - Through The Devil Softly (Nettwerk)

Track: For The Rest of Your Life

Sandoval’s voice stops you in your tracks. She whose seductive tones first made hearts melt in the celebrated 1990s dream pop act Mazzy Star reverted to her collaborative project with My Bloody Valentine’s Colm O Ciosoigin 2009. It was the pair’s second album, eight years after the first, and a real treat, not to be rushed; the sort of record best appreciated under dimmed lights, accompanied by a bottle of red. Sandoval’s tender and becalming vocals teasingly slithered beside a minimalist gently plucked guitar soundtrack, designed for post-party comedown listening

Matt Collins

Huw M - Os Mewn Swn (Huw M)

Track - Seddi Gwag

Listening to gently lilting folk or epic soundtrack music sung in a foreign language has a strangely satisfying effect. Freed of the need to analyse everything the singer has to say, the music really takes over, and that's the place Huw M takes me to. With songs sung entirely in Welsh, and so simplistic they sound like his first ever songs, this guy is clearly not going to be troubling the charts any time soon. His ukuleles, acoustic guitars and pop melodies all swim around most pleasantly, even if they do make you sound like you're singing a song you can't remember any of the words to.


Magic Arm - Make Lists Do Something (Switchflicker)

Track: Widths & Heights

Maybe Magic Arm is the latest in a long line of limb-based bands, following in a lineage from Elbow to The Shins? Or maybe Marc Rigelsford could be Manchester’s greatest rustic-sounding folk-and-bleeps multi-instrumentalist working under a pseudonym since Badly Drawn Boy? He’s already won the support of Iron & Wine and Grizzly Bear but forget the comparisons and influences. This is a charming, disarming debut that stands on it’s own two feet, with layers of interesting instrumentation topped by the simplest of vocal hooks. Winner.


AA Bondy - When The Devil's Loose (Fat Possum)

Track: When The Devil's Loose

So sweet are the Americana-sounding of Augeste Arthur Bondy that you're hard pushed to imagine him in his previous guise as the front man of grunge outfit Verbena. But after moving to upstate New York and falling into the same circle as the Felice Brothers (who appear on the album), Bondy reinvented himself as a singer of sweet folk melodies with outstanding results.

1 comment:

  1. This Sky Larkin album... Left me cold it did. Have you heard the original version of One Of Two? I got so excited about that, and The Answering Machine who appeared about the same time. I thought there was going to be this glorious C86 revival but it never happened.
    It never does...